Click here to download a copy of the U.S. Solar Energy Trade Assessment 2011 report.

A new report shows that the U.S. is central to the global solar supply chain. In 2010, U.S. solar firms achieved a positive trade flow of $1.9 billion globally, according to GTM Research and SEIA®’s U.S. Solar Energy Trade Assessment 2011. 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. 

For the U.S. PV manufacturing industry, 2010 was a record year. Exports totaled more than $5.6 billion, with PV polysilicon feedstock and capital equipment leading all components at $2.5 billion and $1.4 billion, respectively. The leading destinations for U.S.-sourced PV components were China and Germany. Meanwhile, U.S. imports of PV products totaled $3.7 billion, the majority of which ($2.4 billion) came from procurement of modules assembled overseas. China and Mexico were the top two sources of PV goods headed to the U.S. in 2010.

Furthermore, the U.S. was a net exporter of solar products to China last year by more than $240 million. The U.S. primarily sold capital equipment and PV polysilicon to China, while China primarily sold PV modules to the U.S.

“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 U.S. remains a focal point in global PV manufacturing, thanks largely to the domestic manufacturing of feedstock and manufacturing equipment.”

According to the U.S. Solar Energy Trade Assessment 2011, a significant portion of the domestic value generated by the PV industry resides beyond manufactured components; factors like site preparation, labor, permitting, financing and other industry ‘soft costs’ accounted for nearly 50% of total solar revenue in 2010. The report found $4.4 billion of domestic revenue that accrued last year from U.S. solar installations. This domestic value originated from both local and foreign firms employing U.S. resources on the ground for solar goods and services. According to the report, for every dollar spent on a U.S. solar installation in 2010, $0.75 accrued to the U.S.

“The U.S. 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 U.S. 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.”

To download a free copy of U.S. Solar Energy Trade Assessment 2011, visit http://forms.greentechmedia.com/af2?LinkID=CH00095679eR00000060AD.

Tags: china, solar, supply chain, trade balance