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Report: China bans some solar manufacturing tech exports

By Charles H. Featherstone, Columbia Basin Herald
Published: February 2, 2023, 7:44am

HONG KONG — China has reportedly banned the export of several important technologies needed to make solar panels, according to a report in the Hong Kong-based Asia Times on Tuesday.

The report said that the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China added the solar panel technologies to its Catalogue of Technologies Prohibited and Restricted from Expert in China, and said the ban would affect a number of Chinese companies that have moved solar panel production to countries likie Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam in order to get around U.S. tariffs on Chinese-made solar panels.

Affected by the ban are larger silicon wafers, which are more cost-efficient, as well as machines needed to make those larger wafers, the report said. China is currently the world’s leading producer of solar wafers, modules and panels, with nearly four out of every five solar panel bought in the world currently made in China, the report noted.

While an analyst quoted in the report said the primary target of the ban is India, which has taken steps in the last few years to promote domestic solar panel production, the ban on some high-technology solar exports may also have an effect on Hanwha Solutions’ proposed expansion of its Qcell solar panel manufacturing plant in Georgia.

The South Korean company, which owns a major stake in silicon producer REC Silicon, recently announced a $2.5 billion investment in its Dalton, Georgia production facility, and REC announced Tuesday it has reach a preliminary agreement to supply Hanwha with solar-grade polysilicon.

“We are assessing the situation, but are confident in our investment plans,” wrote a Qcells spokesperson to the Columbia Basin Herald.

On Dec. 30, 2022, China’s Ministry of Commerce published a request for public comment on proposed changes to the prohibited technology catalog, which is 18 pages in Chinese, and the public was given until Jan. 30 to respond, according to a machine translation of the webpage.

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