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Surprise – U.S. Is Now A $1.8 Billion Net Exporter Of Solar Energy Systems

August 30th, 2011 · 2 Comments

Here is some exiting news. Surprise U.S is now a 1.8 billion net exporter of solar energy systems.

Solar power panels

To cap off our focus on solar energy this month, here’s some exciting news. With the spate of negative publicity surrounding the U.S. solar power industry (Evergreen Solar bankruptcy and the dim future of thin-film manufacturer Solyndra), many people, investors among them, hardly expect any encouraging news to come from the sector this year. The recently-released report, therefore, from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) revealing that the U.S is in fact a net exporter of solar products came as a surprise to many observers.

Much more surprising is the size of the trade surplus — a cool $ 1 billion plus. According to the 2011 Solar Energy Trade Assessment Report, the country’s total solar systems exports last year to countries like China and Germany totaled $5.6 billion compared to total solar imports of $3.7 billion, which makes the U.S. a net exporter to the tune of $1.8 billion.

With China, the country that’s widely perceived to be the leader in the solar photovoltaics (PV) manufacturing sector, the U.S. enjoys a $247 million trade surplus. U.S. exports to China, composed mostly of capital equipment and silicon amounted to $1.7 billion to $2.0 billion while exports from that country, consisting predominantly of modules, amounted to 1.4 billion.

It will be noted that the $1 billion increase in net exports came at a time when the American solar industry itself is experiencing tremendous growth year-on-year. Last year, the industry expanded by an amazing 100 percent over 2009, a growth powered primarily by the immensely successful Treasury Grant Program and Loan Guarantee Program, the financing support program for solar developers and manufacturers.

Quite significantly, in a country reeling from recession and joblessness, the growth of the solar industry brings a much needed help to the domestic economy. According to the trade report, about 73 percent of the total inputs that goes into every installed solar system is sourced directly from the local economy. This includes equipment, labor, and on-site management. Of the different sub-sectors in the solar power industry, solar PV contributes 82 percent of the domestic value followed by the concentrating solar power and solar heating and cooling sub-sectors.

According to Stephen Lacey of Think Progress, this positive value to the domestic economy does not even include solar energy’s impact on the country’s electricity system. Citing a report released June of this year, Lacey pointed out that solar PV offers 15 to 40 cents per kilowatt-hour in added “value” primarily from its ability to supply peak demand electricity. Solar systems built right next to or in the heart of urban areas reduce the need for costly transmission systems and also have some environmental benefits.

With the current political climate in Washington, D.C. however, it is doubtful if the U.S. can sustain this lead in exports over China in the next few years. The surplus could easily disappear when such programs like the Treasury Grant Program and Loan Guarantee Program expire and Congress will discontinue funding for various energy programs in an effort to control the national debt and deficit. It will be regrettable when this happens as quite clearly, the solar power energy sector has become an essential driving force in the recovery and growth of the U.S. economy.

Via: Think Progress
Photo: Jimmy Joe on Flickr

Tags: News

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Haul it Louisville Guy // Sep 12, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Thahks for the great article. I would not have guessed the numbers you site. I just hope that the solar energy industry continues to make progress. The next step is to make solar panels that make sense for the average homeowner. That is when it will truly take off.

  • 2 Richard@ IT recycler // Oct 16, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    This is suprising, except for the fact that Google’s invested heavily in renewables, there are extensive solar projects in California and all these are underpinning develpment. Solar roofs appear to be making a significant in-road in the UK, particularly among businesses, where running costs can be significantly reduced by using renewables. Ergo, the industry may be having some hiccups, but looks to be growning well.