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JinkoSolar seeks tariff relief, says planned Fla. panel factory jeopardized

JinkoSolar Holding Co. Ltd. petitioned the Trump administration for relief from the tariffs the president imposed on imported solar cells in January, warning that the 30% penalty could jeopardize its recently unveiled plan to invest $50.5 million into a new 1,500-MW panel manufacturing factory in Jacksonville, Fla.

"Jinko seeks urgently to create and expand panel production in the United States, but its ability to do so will be limited without the ability to import the subject cells free from the tariff," an attorney for the China-based manufacturer said in a March 16 letter to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The company is seeking the exemption for its high-efficiency monocrystalline solar cells, which it plans to assemble into modules in Florida for U.S. utility-scale projects.

JinkoSolar justified its request based on "the lack of domestic manufacturing and of an acceptable domestic substitute" and argued that an exclusion would further the goals of Trump administration trade policies by creating investment in advanced U.S. manufacturing along with high-paying new jobs. An exclusion would not harm either of the two foreign-owned, U.S.-based solar panel producers that argued for tariffs, Solarworld Americas Inc. and Suniva Inc., because the companies have been focused on the residential market, JinkoSolar's attorney added.

The request comes as foreign and domestic solar manufacturers adjust their U.S. strategies in response to the tariffs. Several American solar companies are also seeking exemptions, including California-based SunPower Corp., which manufactures its crystalline cells and modules in Asia, Europe and Mexico, and Enphase Energy Inc, a California supplier of microinverters. Enphase's panel-integrated product has been "inadvertently affected" by the tariffs, its CEO said on an earnings call in February. Both JinkoSolar and Solarworld are among the companies integrating the microinverters into their panels.