The American solar industry is facing the first wave of uncertainty of its kind since President Donald Trump was elected.
Trump has threatened to pull the US out of the Paris climate accord, which is aimed at slowing global warming, and has suggested that he might withdraw from the Paris deal.
But solar energy has long been seen as the future of America, a key economic driver in the country, and Trump’s campaign promise to build a border wall with Mexico has yet to materialise.
That has left the US solar industry with a number of unresolved questions: how to handle a future Trump presidency; how to make a profit off the solar boom; and how to adapt to the transition period.
But one of the largest solar panels manufacturers, SolarCity, has issued a stark warning about what’s ahead for the solar industry.
“The world is in the midst of a major shift,” SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive said on a conference call.
“It is about to begin.
The question is: What is that shift going to look like?”
SolarCity is one of several companies that are scrambling to adapt, including a $US200 million (£140m) investment in a new solar panel factory in Michigan.
But SolarCity’s chief executive Lyndon Rives is warning that the transition to solar is going to be chaotic, and that the company will struggle to survive.
“In order to make it, we are going to have to have the guts to make this transition,” he said.
We have this opportunity in solar. “
What is the most exciting thing?
We have this opportunity in solar.
It is just a matter of when we can build this factory, not if.”
Trump’s climate change plans SolarCity has been a staunch supporter of the president’s campaign pledge to shut down America’s coal-fired power plants and has pushed to open up the solar market to American manufacturers.
But Trump’s election was not unexpected: he campaigned on a promise to take the US to 100% renewable energy by 2035, a goal that was seen as far-fetched at the time.
Trump’s transition to the presidency was initially seen as a sign that Trump’s anti-globalisation campaign had failed, and he has since made the case that the Paris agreement will hurt the US economy.
But the US is now the world’s second-largest solar producer, after China, with more than two billion solar panels installed in 2016, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
SolarCity says that in the past year it has invested more than $US20 billion in solar projects in the US, and it expects to add another $US2 billion to the market this year.
“You have seen this growth in solar panels in the last five to 10 years,” Solar City’s CEO said.
Solar panels are being installed in the factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan, as part of SolarCity Inc’s plan to create a solar manufacturing facility in the city.
The company is also looking to build new solar plants in the Midwest, which will help the US become a global leader in solar power.
Solar City said that while the solar manufacturing industry has grown at a healthy rate, it has been slow to grow in scale, and its future is uncertain.
“Solar is going through a big transition right now,” Solar CEO Lyndon said.
“You see a lot more consolidation, you see more consolidation of different companies, a lot less innovation.
And it’s all going to happen at a slower rate.”
What does Trump’s Paris climate deal mean for the US market?
Trump’s decision to pull out of Paris is a blow to the US industry, but the impact is far less severe than that of the US election, where Trump said that he wanted to “take America back to a time when we were going to build our own energy infrastructure, not import.”
Trump has promised to create thousands of manufacturing jobs in the United States, but has not yet announced the names of those factories.
“Trump is trying to undo the hard work that’s already been done in the manufacturing sector in the U.S.,” SolarCity chief executive Wayne Pacelle said.
The US Solar Industry’s annual report says that more than 20,000 jobs are being created in the solar power industry each year, and in the first half of 2017, solar accounted for almost half of the country’s gross domestic product.
The Trump administration has not said which projects would be affected by the withdrawal of US participation in the Paris accord.
“There’s no guarantee that any of these jobs will be created in any particular market,” Solar Energy Industry Association chief executive Roberta Schaffer said.
SolarCity is in a difficult spot.
The Chinese company has been pushing for its Chinese suppliers to work more closely with the US on projects that could boost US solar power, and the company has invested in solar farms in the state of Michigan, which have become the world headquarters for SolarCity.
Solar energy is one part of the broader energy mix in