Grape Solar playing to win in solar trade dispute
By Erik Siemers
Grape Solar CEO Ocean Yuan is betting his company can survive solar price wars by staying focused on consumers.
It would be easy to assume that the threat of U.S. tariffs on imported Chinese solar panels would cause Grape Solar to wither on the vine.
The Eugene-based company sells solar panels in which 80 percent of the components are sourced from Chinese manufacturers.
But Ocean Yuan, the company’s majority owner and perpetually optimistic CEO, believes Grape Solar is positioned to withstand the major marketplace shift that’s expected should the U.S. Department of Commerce decide to take action against China to prevent the company from exporting low-cost solar panels to the United States.
That’s because Grape Solar sells direct to consumers, which keeps costs in line.
“We would be better off than anybody else, in terms of price protection,” Yuan said.
Unlike other major solar panel brands, Grape Solar sells its panels directly, not through third-party distributors and installers, who Yuan said typically mark up the price of panels on their way to consumers.
The 10-person company assembles residential solar energy kits comprised of panels, inverters and racking kits at its operations in Eugene.
The U.S. Department of Commerce is investigating claims made last month by a coalition of American solar manufacturers — led by Hillsboro-based SolarWorld Industries America Inc. — that China has been dumping low-cost, subsidized panels into the U.S. market.
The Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing wants the federal government to make a determination of “critical circumstances” that would impose import duties on imported Chinese panels to offset any improper trade tactics. The coalition wants tariffs applied retroactively for three months.
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