The possibility of the return of tariffs on bifacial solar panels—a prevalent utility-scale solar technology capable of generating electricity on both sides— doesn’t appear to have top executives at the largest U.S. renewable energy company worried.

“The bifacial exemption, even if it’s removed, really has no impact on NextEra. Why is that?” said NextEra Energy CEO John Ketchum. “We’ve contracted all of our panel needs through February of ‘26 and we have very minimal exposure to the bifacial exemption being removed.”

Citing sources familiar with the White House’s plans, Reuters reported last week that the Biden administration was expected to grant a request from Hanwha Qcells to reverse a trade exemption granted two years ago that allows the tariff-free import of the solar panel technology from China and other countries. The request was reportedly supported by seven other companies, including First Solar.

Even if the exemption was removed, it would expire at the end of February 2026 and couldn’t be reinstated for another eight years, Ketchum said, “so we feel like we’re in a very good spot.”

Cheap solar panels mainly from China have inundated the global market. The flood has prompted calls by some in the industry to bolster solar manufacturing in the U.S., an initiative underway as part of the Biden administration’s clean energy movement in the U.S.

Duties on panel imports would benefit solar panel manufacturers, including Hanwha Qcells, building factories in the U.S. Many were incentivized by tax credits offered in the Inflation Reduction Act.

“As more U.S. production capacity comes online and it’s actually available, we will continue to source from U.S suppliers,” Ketchum said.

Solar imports spike

Data from S&P Global Market Intelligence showed total solar panel imports jumped 82% to a record 54 gigawatts in 2023 compared to 2022, far outpacing domestic production. The report pointed out that PV shipments have been increasing since President Joe Biden waived tariffs on solar panels from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam for two years, which is set to end in June 2024.

The move was taken amid uncertainty surrounding U.S. antidumping and countervailing duties (AD/CVD). Such duties are intended to offset the value of dumping or subsidization to level the playing field for domestic industries, according to U.S. Customers and Border Protection.

Uncertainty continues to linger today with more industry speculation.

Ketchum said he finds it hard to believe that any panels are being dumped into the U.S. market, considering the country is the most expensive solar panel market in the world.

However, the domestic solar panel industry is gaining strength, and any changes to trade conditions will be more manageable for several reasons, Ketchum said.

“This is not like circumvention. This is not circumvention 2.0. The solar panel market is in a very different spot,” he said. “We don’t expect any trade action if it were to occur to result in delivery stoppages. And in any event, our panels are delivered well in advance of construction, which gives us a lot of time and opportunity to be able to troubleshoot any issues should they arise.”

The company has contractual protections in place and has a diversified set of suppliers that enables it to pivot, if needed.

Domestic solar gaining ground

The U.S. solar panel industry is continuing to ramp up its manufacturing capacity.

“At the end of ‘21, solar panel module capacity for the U.S. was about 8 gigawatts. That’s expected to be about 50 GW by the time we get to 2026. So, the U.S. market is in a much different spot,” Ketchum said. “There has already been 150 GW of new U.S. solar panel factory announcements that have been made. If you talk to most U.S. domestic solar panel manufacturers, they’re sold out through 2026. So, they’re certainly not having any trouble with demand.”

Qcells, the solar division of South Korean conglomerate Hanwha Corp., is among the solar panel companies growing in the U.S. In 2023, the company said it planned to invest more than $2.5 billion to grow its manufacturing capacity here. The company is lining up more customers for its panels. These include a deal to supply 12 GW of solar modules from its Georgia factory to Microsoft Corp.

If new or higher solar panel tariffs were to come and the bifacial exemption reversed, Evercore analysts said First Solar (FSLR) would be one of the main beneficiaries. FSLR competes with China PV manufacturers and its expanding capacity, analysts said.

“Recent barriers to entry in the U.S. related to the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act have benefitted FSLR’s domestic sales, but weakening barriers for U.S. imports of foreign solar could hamper FSLR’s domestic position,” Evercore analysts said in a note April 23. “The recent subsidy benefits of the Democratic-led government could also be at risk in the outer years of the forecast if the U.S. government changes control and the Republican Party attempts to roll back the tax subsidies put in place under the Inflation Reduction Act.”

First Solar, the largest U.S.-based solar panel manufacturer, has several major projects underway in the U.S. These include new manufacturing facilities in Alabama and Louisiana, plus an expansion project at its Ohio facility.