Exclusive: U.S. blocks more than 1,000 solar shipments over Chinese slave labor concerns

November 11, 2011 A new law banning the importation of slave labor from China’s Xinjiang region has left more than 1,000 solar panels worth hundreds of millions of dollars in storage at U.S. ports since June, according to federal customs officials and industry sources.

The previously unreported level of seizures, a policy intended to pressure Beijing over Uyghur detention camps in Xinjiang, shows that the Biden administration is delaying efforts to decarbonize the U.S. energy sector to fight climate change.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized 1,053 solar devices between June 21, when the Uyghur Mandatory Labor Protection Act went into effect, and October 25. It has just been released.

The agency would not identify the manufacturers or confirm details of the number of solar devices in the shipments, citing a federal law that protects confidential trade secrets.

Three industry sources familiar with the matter told Reuters the seized products included panels and polysilicon cells with capacities of up to 1 gigawatt and were mainly made by three Chinese manufacturers – Longi Green Energy Technology Co Ltd ( 601012.SS ), Trina Solar Co Ltd ( 688599.SS ) and JinkoSolar. Holding Co (JKS.N).

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Combined, Longhi, Trina, and Ginco usually account for up to one-third of U.S. panel supplies. But the companies have halted new shipments to the United States and additional shipments will also be detained, industry sources said.

The sources requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

China accepts abuses in Xinjiang. Beijing initially said there were no internment camps, but later admitted it had set up “vocational training centers” in Xinjiang necessary to curb terrorism, separatism and religious extremism.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular news report on Friday that the suggestion about the use of forced labor in Xinjiang is “a lie of the century concocted by a few anti-China individuals” and will hinder the global response to climate change. .

“The US side should immediately stop the unreasonable suppression of Chinese photovoltaic enterprises and release the seized solar panel units as soon as possible,” he said.

In an email, Ginco said it is working with CBP on documentation to prove the supplies are not related to forced labor and is “confident the shipment will be accepted.”

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Longi and Trina did not respond to requests for comment.

The shutdown is a challenge for U.S. solar development as the Biden administration seeks to decarbonize the U.S. economy and implement new inflation-reduction legislation that promotes clean energy technologies to fight climate change.

U.S. solar installations fell 23 percent in the third quarter, with nearly 23 gigawatts of solar projects delayed, mostly because they couldn’t get panels, according to the American Clean Power Association, a trade group.

ACP urged the Biden administration to reform the import inspection process.

“After more than four months of solar panels being reviewed by the UFLPA, none have been disposed of, but instead remain stuck in limbo without end,” he said in a statement.

The UFLPA presumes that all goods imported from Xinjiang are made with forced labor and requires manufacturers to show documentation that the imported goods are returned to raw materials.

CBP does not comment on detentions or say when they may be released or turned away. “Ultimately, it depends on how quickly an importer can provide adequate documentation,” said CBP spokeswoman Rhonda Lawson.

Longi, Trina and Ginko source most of their polysilicon from US and European suppliers such as Hemlock Semiconductor, a joint venture between Michigan-based Corning Inc and Shin-Issu Handotai Co Ltd and Germany’s Wacker Chemie, industry sources said.

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A Wacker spokesman would not comment on U.S. claims, but said the company sources quartzite from suppliers in Norway, Spain and France.

“Our purchasing strategy gives us reason to believe that the products used in our supply chain are made in a manner that respects human rights,” said spokesman Christoph Bachmeier.

Hemlock said in a statement that it sources all of its metallic grade silicon from suppliers that use quartz minerals in North and South America.

CBP previously said about 1,700 shipments worth $516.3 million were seized under the UFLPA through September, but it has not previously detailed how many of those shipments contained solar equipment.

The EU has proposed a ban on imports from Xinjiang, but has not implemented one.

Reporting by Nicola Groom; Additional reporting by Eduardo Baptista in Beijing and David Stanway in Shanghai; Editing by Richard Valdmanis, Lisa Shoemaker, Lincoln Fest and David Evans

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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