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The company lobbied hard for tariffs on foreign solar panels, now its new owner is exempt from them.

SolarWorld, the Hillsboro solar panel manufacturer based on Evergreen Parkway, fought hard for the federal government to impose tariffs on foreign-made solar panels.

Last week, the out-of-state company looking to buy SolarWorld was granted an exemption around those tariffs.

SunPower, a San Jose-based solar panel manufacturer, announced Tuesday, Sept. 18, that it had been granted an exemption from 30 percent tariffs imposed by the Trump administration earlier this year on solar products made outside of the United States. The company imports most of its products from Asia and Mexico.

SolarWorld laid off hundreds of its workers in 2016 after its parent company, SolarWorld AG, filed for insolvency in Europe. The company lobbied for steep federal tariffs on foreign-made solar products, which SolarWorld officials argued were necessary in order to stave off Chinese competitors, which have flooded the U.S. market with cheaper products.

SunPower was a vocal opponent of the tariffs, saying they would cost the company millions.

SunPower announced in April that it planned to purchase the struggling Hillsboro manufacturing plant for an undisclosed amount. The SolarWorld acquisition was seen by many as a way to give the company a production plant in the Americas, getting around at least a portion of the tariffs SolarWorld played a hand in bringing about.

SunPower also sought an exemption from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, saying the money it would pay in tariffs could be better invested in upgrading the Hillsboro plant and improving American jobs.

Last week, the federal government released a list of companies which would be exempted from the tariffs. Under the exemption, certain solar cells and modules SunPower manufactures overseas will not be hit by the tariffs when imported.

On Sept. 18, SunPower's chief executive officer Tom Werner said the exemption was great news.

"SunPower can now fully focus our resources to deliver the best solar solutions to our customers, develop the next wave of solar technology through American research and development and invest in American solar manufacturing," Werner said in a statement. "This will support U.S. solar technology leadership and preserve American jobs."

The company will continue to move forward with its purchase of SolarWorld, Werner said, which it expects to wrap up within the month. The acquisition requires approval from regulators in both the United States and Germany, where SolarWorld's parent company, SolarWorld AG, is based.

"We appreciate the (Trump) administration's thorough review and consideration on this matter," Werner said. "(We) believe this outcome supports common goals of technology innovation, economic prosperity, energy independence, and U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace."


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