GTM Research, SEIA report finds that US was net exporter of solar products by $1.9 billion in 2010

The newly published US Solar Energy Trade Assessment 2011 report by GTM Research and SEIA analyses the trade flows and domestic value in the US solar energy industry during 2010 and has found that the US is a key player in the global solar supply chain. In 2010, the US was a net exporter of solar energy products by US$1.8 billion, with its primary exports including PV capital equipment and PV silicon.

PV components from the US were primarily shipped to China and Germany, with the US holding a “positive trade balance with China with net exports of US$247 million to US$540 million in 2010.” Conversely, US imports of PV products amounted to US$3.7 billion, with US$2.4 billion coming from the purchase of modules assembled overseas. According to the report, China and Mexico were the top two sources of PV goods that were shipped to the US in 2010.

“Until now, the finished module was the industry’s benchmark for judging the health of the PV manufacturing sector,” said 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.”

The report also details what percentage of every dollar spent on US solar installations was created domestically in 2010. GTM Research and SEIA found that site preparation, labor, permitting, financing and other industry ‘soft costs’ made up nearly 50% of the total solar revenue. Of that US$6 billion, US$4.4 billion of domestic revenue was amassed from US solar installations, 82% of which came from the PV sector.

According to the new report, 20% of the value of crystalline silicon modules came from domestic sources, while 71% of the value of thin-film modules was domestically sourced. GTM Research and SEIA noted that the thin-film module domestic value was “due to the dominance of a single, US-based supplier with a US manufacturing facility: First Solar.”

The domestic value in 2010 came from both local and foreign firms that use US resources for solar goods and services. Researchers found that for every dollar spent on a US solar installation in 2010, US$0.75 was credited to or created in 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 U.S. 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,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA.

“Solar energy is an industry invented in the U.S. that is helping our country reclaim our manufacturing leadership.  But to maintain our competitive advantage, we need innovative, proactive solutions from policymakers 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.”

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