Lehigh Valley

Solar industry nervously awaits Trump decision on tariffs

HELLERTOWN, Pa. - Evoke Solar's business is harnessing energy, from light.

"We design, build and maintain solar electric systems for houses and businesses," said Wes Checkeye, owner of the Hellertown-based company. 

Checkeye buys equipment like solar panels and installs them for clients. 

His industry is doing well for many reasons, like tax credits for people who buy panels and access to foreign made, less expensive products.

But now, potential tariffs could change things. 

"Time will tell. We're not sure. I may be very affected," Checkeye said.

American companies who make panels say it's wrong for foreign businesses to sell similar equipment for cheaper. 

"They're feeling like that's taking away from their market share in an unfair manner," explained Checkeye. 

To compensate, President Trump could soon put big taxes on solar imports, as a way to force people to buy from companies who operate in the United States. 

That would be good, of course, for the American manufacturers. 

But it would also create unintended consequences, like higher prices in an industry the government already subsidizes.

It could also stifle growth for installers.    

"A 20, 30-cent tariff on product essentially means that our installed cost would go up 20-30 cents a watt," he said.

That may not sound like much, but it could add up to thousands of dollars more for the average project. 

It's still not clear whether the company Checkeye buys from most will be affected. 

But if the tariff comes, he says he's ready. 

"Many of us could shift what we do," he said. "Many of us could sidestep and focus on these only American made products…that people would have to pay a premium for."

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