$1.9 Billion in US Solar Exports in 2010, A Bright Spot in the US Economy

The US was a net exporter of solar energy goods in 2010 with a positive trade flow of $1.9 billion.

Photovoltaic (PV) components accounted for more than 99% of the year’s exports, with solar heating and cooling claiming the remainder of the positive balance, according to a report produced for the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) by GTM Research.

2010 was a record year for the US PV manufacturing industry with total exports exceeding $5.6 billion. PV polysilicon feedstock and capital equipment led component exports at $2.5 billion and $1.4 billion respectively.

The leading destinations for US-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 US.

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 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," says Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA. "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,"

"Until now, the finished module was the industry’s benchmark for judging the health of the PV manufacturing sector," says 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."

According to "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% 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 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, $0.75 accrued to the US.

Download a copy of the US Solar Energy Trade Assessment 2011:

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