Seven U.S. solar cell manufacturers, led by SolarWorld Industries America, filed antidumping duty (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) petitions yesterday with the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) and the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). The petitioners allege that imports of certain Chinese solar cells, modules and panels are being sold at less than fair value and that the Chinese government is unfairly subsidizing producers of these products. If SolarWorld and its coalition succeed, duties greater than 100 percent could be imposed on these imports, more than doubling their cost to U.S. purchasers.

The scope of the petitions includes crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells, whether or not individually, partially or fully assembled into other products, including modules, laminates, panels and building integrated materials. These cells are used in solar panels or modules, and are often installed on roofs or in field installations. The imports include those classified in the U.S. Harmonized Tariff Schedule as 8501.61.0000, 8507.20.8000, 8541.40.6020 and 8451.40.6030. Excluded from the scope of the petitions are thin film photovoltaic cells produced from amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride, copper indium gallium selenide and also non-photovoltaic technologies such as solar thermal and concentrated solar power. The scope thus excludes the kinds of solar cells produced by Solyndra LLC, the recipient of Department of Energy aid that recently declared bankruptcy.

The leader of the coalition, SolarWorld, is the largest U.S. manufacturer of solar cells. It is joined by six unnamed U.S. companies. The petitioners ask DOC and the ITC to exclude from the domestic industry the following U.S. companies, because they import the subject merchandise or are related to the Chinese exporters: Evergreen Solar Inc., Suntech Arizona, Inc., Motech Americas, LLC and Wanxiang New Energy LLC.

The petitioners name more than 70 Chinese producers of solar cells, including large producers, such as Jinko Solar Holding Co. Ltd., Trina Solar Ltd. and Suntech Power. The petitioners also name hundreds of importers of the subject merchandise. A list of producers is available here, and a list of importers is available here.

In addition to claiming that imports of these solar cells are sold at less than fair value, the petitioners allege that the Chinese government provides unfair subsidies to Chinese solar cell producers. Specifically identified are Chinese government policies providing cash grants, discounted inputs, discounted real estate, power and water, below-market loans, tax exemptions, export assistance and below-market trade financing.

Duties could be assessed as early as January 12, 2012, when DOC makes its preliminary determination in the CVD investigation. The coalition also alleges critical circumstances, which could result in duties being applied to subject merchandise imports entering the United States 90 days before the preliminary CVD decision.

Any interested party may participate in the investigations. The law defines interested parties as foreign producers and exporters of the subject merchandise, U.S. importers of the subject merchandise, U.S. manufacturers and wholesalers of the domestic like product and certain trade associations.