Trump steel and aluminum tariffs could hurt utility solar projects

Could cause an additional 2 to 4 cents per watt increase in the price of racking


Trump recently announced he would slap a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and another 10 percent on aluminum imports, vowing to help an American industry, he says, that had been treated unfairly by other countries.

GTM reports that “such tariffs could cause an additional 2 to 4 cents per watt increase in the price of racking.”

“Steel and aluminum tariffs would be immediately impactful to the U.S. solar market,” said Scott Moskowitz, solar analyst at GTM Research. “Ground-mount systems use racks and trackers built mostly of steel. Aluminum is also common in residential and commercial rooftop racking. Most mounting structures vendors source steel and aluminum from numerous locations, both in and outside of the United States. Tariffs would likely make the cost of importing these materials prohibitive while increasing the price of U.S.-made steel, which has already risen due to the threat of tariffs.”

The utility-scale solar market is particularly sensitive to new tariffs, Moskowitz added. The prices of trackers and fixed-tilt racking have already risen as much as 15 percent, or 1 to 2 cents per watt, over the past six months as the global price of steel and oil (the latter of which impacts shipping costs) have risen. Steel and aluminum prices started to rise last year on the anticipation of trade action.

Trump believes that implementing import taxes will help protect American jobs and will boost the U.S. economy.

The Trump administration also cited national security interests for implementing the tariffs, saying the military needs a domestic supply for its tanks and ships.

“We’re going to build our steel industry back and our aluminum industry back,” Trump said.

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