The U.S. solar trade surplus

By Todd Woody
December 17, 2010

RTXRLN1.jpgWith China’s subsidy of its renewable energy industry likely to be a continued topic of debate in 2011, a new report on the United States’ solar exports offers some insights into the domestic industry.

The data is a bit dated – the report from the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research looks at 2009 imports and exports – but interesting nonetheless.

The number that grabs attention is the U.S.’ solar trade surplus — $723 million in net exports in 2009. For instance, the nation exported $1.1 billion in polysilicon that year. Polysilicon is the material from which wafers are made for conventional crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules. The U.S. controls 40 percent of the global polysilicon market while German has a 19 percent share and China a nine percent share.

Yet China controls nearly half of the global wafer market. The U.S. has only a three percent share.

“Thirty-one percent of the value of PV modules deployed in U.S. installations in 2009 was created domestically, while the remaining 69 percent came from foreign sources,” the report’s authors wrote. “The domestic value was primarily created in the areas of polysilicon production and module assembly for crystalline silicon modules, and capital equipment, glass manufacturing, labor, and value chain markup for thin film modules.”

In other words, the U.S. to some degree is shipping raw materials to other countries to be manufactured into higher value products that are then exported back to North America.

“China and Mexico were the locations that contributed the most to imports, while Germany, Japan, and China were the most prominent export destinations,” according to the report.

Still, the value generated by the domestic solar industry is not limited to manufacturing and includes jobs that are not imported.

“A significant portion of the revenue generated by solar projects resides beyond the physical components – as site preparation, installation labor, permitting, financing and other soft costs comprise nearly 50 percent of the total cost,” the report said.

2 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

[...] The US solar trade surplusReuters Blogs (blog)The data is a bit dated – the report from the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research looks at 2009 imports and exports – but interesting …Report: US PV solar creates big domestic valueElectroIQSolar reports say industry is booming, with falling prices and heavy Chinese …Los Angeles TimesReport Says Residential Solar Getting Cheaper, Installations More EfficientGetSolar.com (blog)Clean Energy Authority -CalFinder (blog) -Focus Newsall 35 news articles » [...]

[...] in that regard, yet solar exchange traded funds (ETFs) are putting up painful numbers. …The US solar trade surplusReuters Blogs (blog)Report: US PV solar creates big domestic valueElectroIQSolar reports say [...]

In order to keep up with China, we need to somehow mass produce solar PV, solar dishes and the LiFePO4 battery (or better) in automated or robotic factories. The solar dish does not require paved over deserts because they are simply post mounted.

It will take about the same amount of land as was paved for roads and highways to fulfill solar’s full potential. This is why we can NOT allow such as the solar trough to become that widespread.

Posted by fireofenergy | Report as abusive

Hey there fireofenergy, would you get in touch with us?
Fill in our sign up form on the texas solar site.

Cheers!

Posted by Texassolar.com | Report as abusive

[...] The U.S. solar trade surplus | Analysis & Opinion. Share This With [...]