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U.S. Solar Industry Was Net Global Exporter by $1.9B in 2010

New report shows positive U.S. solar trade balance in 2010, a complete account of imports and exports by key countries, domestic value created.

WASHINGTON, D.C. and BOSTON, Mass. - 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 SEIA® and GTM Research’s U.S. Solar Energy Trade Assessment 2011. Photovoltaic (PV) components accounted for more than 99 percent 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.

“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 percent, 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 and creating tens of thousands of jobs. 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.”

“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; site preparation, labor, permitting, financing and other industry ‘soft costs’ comprised nearly 50 percent of total solar revenue in 2010. The report found $4.4 billion of domestic revenue 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.

ABOUT THE REPORT
U.S. Solar Energy Trade Assessment 2011 is a free report researched and published by GTM Research and SEIA®. This is the second annual edition of a study first published in November 2010. It is a comprehensive analysis of trade flows and domestic value creation in the U.S. solar energy industry for the calendar year 2010. The primary intent of this study is to go beyond the relatively simplistic analysis of solar trade issues often provided in both industry and political circles.

Key Findings:

  • The U.S. is a significant net exporter of solar energy products with total net exports of $1.9 billion in 2010.
  • The U.S. is a net exporter to China by more than $240 million.
  • The largest solar energy export product is polysilicon, the feedstock for crystalline silicon photovoltaics, of which the U.S. exported $2.5 billion in 2010.
  • The second largest solar energy export product is PV capital equipment, the manufacturing equipment for PV products, of which the U.S. exported $1.4 billion in 2010.
  • The largest solar energy import product is the PV module, of which the U.S. imported $2.4 billion in 2010.
  • 2010 U.S. solar energy installations created a combined $6.0 billion in direct value, of which $4.4 billion (75%) accrued to the U.S.
    • 82% ($3.6 billion) of the domestic value created by solar in the U.S. came from the PV sector
    • 9% ($419 million) came from the concentrating solar sector
    • 9% ($400 million) came from the solar heating and cooling sector

ABOUT SEIA®
Established in 1974, the Solar Energy Industries Association® is the national trade association of the U.S. solar energy industry. Through advocacy and education, SEIA® is working to build a strong solar industry to power America. As the voice of the industry, SEIA® works with its 1,000 member companies to make solar a mainstream and significant energy source by expanding markets, removing market barriers, strengthening the industry and educating the public on the benefits of solar energy.

ABOUT GREENTECH MEDIA AND GTM RESEARCH
Greentech Media delivers research and analysis in the business-to-business greentech market. Using an integrated platform, we produce high-quality products, whether it is industry news, market research or networking events. GTM Research, the research arm of the company, produces in-depth market reports and is the publisher of PV News, a monthly solar market tracker. Greentech Media is headquartered in Boston, MA, with operations in New York, NY, San Francisco, CA and Munich.
 

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