By Kari Williamson
Solar photovoltaic (PV) components accounted for more than 99% of the year’s exports, with solar heating and cooling (SHC) claiming the remainder of the positive balance.
2010 exports totalled over US$5.6bn, with solar PV polysilicon feedstock and capital equipment leading all components at US$2.5bn and US$1.4b respectively.
The leading destinations for US-sourced solar PV components were China and Germany.
Imports reached US$3.7bn
Imports of solar PV products reached US$3.7bn, the majority of which (US$2.4bn) came from procurement of modules assembled overseas. China and Mexico were the top two sources of solar PV goods headed to the US in 2010.
Furthermore, the US was a net exporter of solar products to China last year by more than US$240 million. The products consisted mainly of capital equipment and solar PV polysilicon , whereas China primarily sold PV modules to the US.
“The US solar energy market continues to be a bright spot in an otherwise bleak economy. As the global solar industry continues to grow and evolve, the US is seen more and more as a leading market – both in installations and in exports.
“Solar is a showcase industry of US ingenuity. In 2010, we grew by over 100%, we achieved a significant positive trade balance, and we exported more goods and services to China than we imported,” says Rhone Resch, President and CEO of SEIA.
“Solar energy is an industry invented in the US that is helping our country reclaim our manufacturing leadership and creating tens of thousands of jobs. But to maintain our competitive advantage, we need innovative, proactive solutions from policy-makers to match the investments being provided overseas to grow robust solar supply chains. Doing so will result in new jobs and opportunities for communities that have seen their factories close up shop in recent years.”
“Until now, the finished module was the industry’s benchmark for judging the health of the PV manufacturing sector,” adds Shayle Kann, Managing Director of Solar at GTM Research.
“However, the PV market is more complex than meets the eye. To completely understand solar trade flows, this report looks both at earlier steps in the value chain and at the non-panel components of a solar PV system. As our research shows, the US remains a focal point in global PV manufacturing, thanks largely to the domestic manufacturing of feedstock and manufacturing equipment.”
Beyond manufactured components
According to the report, a significant portion of the domestic value generated by the solar PV industry resides beyond manufactured components: site preparation, labour, permitting, financing and other industry ‘soft costs’ comprised nearly 50% of total solar revenue in 2010.
The report found US$4.4bn of domestic revenue accrued last year from US solar installations. This domestic value originated from both local and foreign firms employing US resources on the ground for solar goods and services. According to the report, for every dollar spent on a US solar installation in 2010, US$0.75 accrued to the US.