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The challenge of uncertainty: Strata Solar on the Section 201 case

In this interview, Strata Solar Senior VP Brian O’Hara talks about the challenges that the Section 201 trade case is bringing to his company, and how Strata is meeting these challenges.

By: CHRISTIAN ROSELUND

pv magazine: In broad strokes, what is Strata’s perspective on the Section 201 case?

Brian O’Hara: At a very high level, we see this as a case of two foreign-owned, foreign-backed companies attempting to manipulate U.S. trade law to get a bailout for their bad investments, at the cost of American manufacturing jobs.

In its broadest strokes that’s how we look at this. Obviously it’s a big challenge for our industry and it is creating a lot of uncertainty, but I think that’s how we see the driver of this case

pv magazine: What impacts, if any, are you seeing on your business as a result of this investigation?

O’Hara: As you’ve probably heard from a lot of other companies, the uncertainty that this creates in the market around what tariffs may or may not be has created a lot of difficulty in the module supply market. Modules are not only more difficult to come by but they are also higher priced. We’ve seen prices go up 30%+ since the announcement of this trade case based solely on the speculation of tariffs.

pv magazine: Indeed. What is your company’s strategy overall for dealing with the effects of this case?

O’Hara: I don’t now if this was necessarily driven by the Section 201 case, but a good part of our strategy has always been to have a very solid procurement department, and have very good high level relationships with key suppliers.

And that extends all the way up to the head of our company who has really great relationships with a number of key module suppliers. So that is something that we have always focused on, and it works out well for us in difficult times like this.

And I expect that it’s a strategy that we are going to continue to utilize going forward, for more reasons than just protection against things like this. So I think that’s one aspect of an overall strategy. The other aspects are sort of balancing that risk of over-procurement versus risk of under-procurement.

pv magazine: Anything else that we haven’t covered that you think our readers should know about this case and Strata’s approach.

O’Hara: Our view is that if one is interested in protecting and growing American manufacturing jobs, then placing tariffs that strangle one of the fastest-growing industries in the country is not the way to do that. If you care about American manufacturing jobs, you should be looking to grow the domestic solar industry rather than shrink it by imposing tariffs

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