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What makes a solar panel a solar panel? - a new EU judgment answers the question –

The Court of Justice of the European Union has recently published a judgement regarding the determination of the country of origin of solar modules assembled in a third country from solar cells manufactured in another third country.

According to the Court of Justice, the origin must, in any event, be determined in the light of the decisive criterion that is constituted by the ‘last substantial processing or working’ of the goods concerned, which is the stage in the production process during which the use to which the goods are to be put is established, and they acquire specific properties and composition, which they did not possess previously and which are not required to undergo significant qualitative changes subsequently.

The two elements upon which it is based, namely the ability to capture solar energy and then to convert it into electricity, may be regarded, first, as constituting fundamental properties of solar cells, modules and panels, and second, as determining the use to which those various categories of products are to be put. Furthermore, those two elements, taken together, support the view that the processing of silicon wafers into solar cells possesses an importance that is both substantial and greater than that of the improvements made in the subsequent stage of the production process, during which a greater or lesser number of solar cells are assembled in solar modules or panels.

Thus, the processing of silicon wafers into solar cells had to be classified as the last substantial processing that occurs in the process for producing the solar modules and panels, so the country of origin of the solar modules and panels is the one where the silicon wafers are processed into solar cells.