January 31, 2018

President Trump’s solar tariff hits home for SWFL

By: Vicki Parsons - IT

Posted: Jan 26, 2018 6:09

By Devin Turk, Reporter


President Trump’s new solar tariffs seem to be making a substantial impact in the Southwest Florida region.

Dominick Zito has been in the solar industry for a decade, and business has been booming.

“Whether it is environmental, political, that doesn’t make a difference. It’s about the user reducing their electricity bill and carbon footprint,” said Zito.

He was confused when he heard President Trump announce a 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels.

“Thirty percent as of Tuesday is a huge detriment to our industry and me keeping employees in Southwest Florida,” Zito said.

The tariff would last for four years, declining by five percent every year.

It’s aimed to create more manufacturing jobs in the United States, but Zito is skeptical.

“This is deterring people from moving forward with solar. The only people who will benefit are the large power companies and producers from fossil fuels, rather than me going out selling solar to individual houses and reducing your bottom line,” Zito said.

FGCUs director of emergent technologies isn’t worried.

“Panel is 1/3 of the cost of installation so the estimate would be five to seven percent increase in cost of install,” professor John Woolschlager said.

He said solar is here to stay, and since it’s getting cheaper by the year to install solar, he doesn’t think the tariff will scare away consumers.

“Versus two years ago they’ve dropped in half of what they were… It still pays to install solar even with this tariff,” Woolschlager said.

Zito is trying to stay optimistic that the tariff may encourage others to get solar.

“This might be the stimulus for that to say OK we’re ramping up solar in the U.S. I’m ready to move forward,” Zito said.

NBC2 spoke with Babcock ranch — the new solar-powered community in Charlotte County.

A spokesperson said they wouldn’t be affected because their solar fields are already in place.