The latest move by the U.S. Commerce Department in a trade dispute with China represents good news, bad news for solar power. Tariffs ranging from 18.56% to 35.21% will be imposed on Chinese solar panels made from certain components based on the assertion that the manufacturers have benefited from unfair subsidies. Part of the goal of these new duties is to close a loophole in a previous set of tariffs on Chinese solar cells that could be sidestepped by using cells made in places like Taiwan and assembling the panels in China.
Of course, the U.S. solar panel makers are very happy about this, and they hope that this new ruling, which is still just preliminary at this point. It should help their profit margins by removing part of their biggest competition. Chinese solar companies shouldn't be too badly hurt, though, since the US represents only 10% of their sales.
But the bad news is that the Earth's atmosphere doesn't care too much about our trade wars. All that matters is how much greenhouse gases and pollutants are produced, and anything that increases the cost of solar panels probably won't help. The difference shouldn't be too major in the US, so it's certainly not the end of the world, but I do wish that the US and China could solve their problems in other ways than by making a world-changing technology more expensive. We need the price of solar power to go down as fast as possible, and anything that slows that down - even if for good reasons from an economic point of view - can be counter-productive in the long-term.