Photovoltaic systems, once the darlings of the construction industry, have been facing some hurdles recently. During 2017, the number of jobs in the solar industry decreased for the first time since 2010, according to the Solar Foundation's annual census, despite record-setting growth in 2016. It is widely believed the Trump administration's new tariffs on cheap, imported solar panels are the cause of the downturn.
"It's very likely there will be a slowdown in job growth, perhaps more job declines into 2018 and in 2019, as well," Ed Gilliland, senior director at the Solar Foundation, told HuffPost.
Part of the reason for the decline, he says, is few companies expected the Republican-controlled Congress to renew the federal investment tax credit in its entirety at the end of 2015. The tax credit served as a strong incentive for many consumers to undertake solar projects while the financial benefits were still in place. This eagerness, combined with less expensive imported solar panels, resulted in a solar industry boom. But fears about new trade restrictions squashed the growth in 2017.
On Jan. 22, President Trump approved a 30 percent fee on all imported panels, decreasing by 5 percent per year over four years. The fee was in line with what the International Trade Commission recommended.