Border enforcement has detained up to 1 GW of solar capacity, Reuters reports

More than 1,000 shipments of solar energy components worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents since June, according to federal customs officials and industry sources based on reporting from the Reuters news agency.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has seized 1,053 shipments of solar energy equipment between June 21, when the Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act (UFLPA) went into effect, and Oct. 25, it told Reuters in response to a public records request. None of the shipments have yet been released.

The agency did not reveal the manufacturers or confirm details about the quantity of solar equipment in the shipments, citing federal law that protects confidential trade secrets.

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The news agency cited other sources who said the detained products include panels and polysilicon cells likely amounting to up to 1 GW of capacity and primarily made by three Chinese manufacturers: Longi Green Energy Technology Co Ltd., Trina Solar Co Ltd., and JinkoSolar Holding Co.

The three typically account for up to a third of U.S. panel supplies. The companies reportedly have halted new shipments to the United States over concerns additional cargoes will be detained.

China denies abuses in Xinjiang. Beijing initially denied the existence of any detention camps, but later admitted it had set up “vocational training centers” which it said were necessary to curb what it said was terrorism, separatism and religious radicalism in Xinjiang.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a regular news briefing on November 11 that claims about the use of forced labor in Xinjiang were “the lie of the century fabricated by a small group of anti-China individuals” and would hinder the global response to climate change.

Reuters said that Jinko told it in an email that it is working with CBP on documentation proving its supplies are not linked to forced labor and was “confident the shipments will be admitted.”

Solar installations in the United States slowed by 23% in the third quarter, and nearly 23 GW of solar projects are delayed, largely due to an inability to obtain panels, according to the American Clean Power Association trade group.

“The solar market has faced repeated delays as companies struggle to obtain panels as a result of an opaque and slow-moving process at U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” the group said in a statement. 

The UFLPA 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.

CBP had previously said that it had detained about 1,700 shipments worth $516.3 million under UFLPA through September but had never detailed how many of those shipments contained solar equipment.

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Author: David Wagman