A Reuters news report said U.S. imports of solar panels are picking up after months of gridlock stemming from implementation of a new law banning goods made with forced labor.
A White House official confirmed the thaw in shipments at an energy conference on Monday, attributing it to clearer rules around complying with the Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act (UFLPA).
The gains are a relief to major Chinese suppliers including Trina Solar and Jinko Solar, who are getting products into the lucrative U.S. market after long delays.
The labor protection law prohibits imports of products made in China’s Xinjiang region, where Chinese authorities are reported to have established labor camps for ethnic Uyghur and other Muslim groups. China denies any abuses.
The movement of panels that have been stuck at the border or awaiting shipment from overseas should help alleviate delays in U.S. solar project development stemming from implementation of the law, which went into effect in June of last year.
The freeze in project building posed a risk to the Biden administration’s clean energy and climate change goals, the industry has said.
“There’s clearer guidance out, and we’re seeing more shipments coming through,” John Podesta, senior adviser to President Joe Biden on clean energy matters, told reporters on Monday on the sidelines of the CERAWeek energy conference in Houston. He did not give details on the quantity of panels that were making it through customs.
Trina Solar told Reuters that more than 900 megawatts of its solar panels have cleared U.S. customs in the last four months, with less than 1 percent of those products being detained for examination. That’s about enough capacity to power more than 150,000 homes.
“Trina’s data systems and supply chain management allow us to provide detailed traceability documentation, upon request by the U.S. Customs,” a Trina U.S. spokesperson, Melissa Cavanagh, said in an email. “This has significantly reduced delays at the ports.”
The UFLPA essentially presumes that all goods from Xinjiang are made with forced labor and requires producers to show sourcing documentation of imported equipment back to the raw material to prove otherwise before imports can be cleared.
Jinko Solar Holding has also had shipments released from detention.
As of October, U.S. Customs and Border Protection had seized more than 1,000 shipments of solar energy equipment under UFLPA, the agency said in response to a public records request. None had been released.
The products were primarily made by Trina, Jinko and Longi Green Energy Technology. Those companies typically account for up to a third of U.S. panel supplies.