New York Times
August 29, 2011
To hear most energy industry observers describe it, one would think the U.S. has forever lost the battle to China over the future of the solar industry. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), however, released a report on Monday concluding that the U.S. ran a trade surplus of $1.88 billion in solar technologies in 2010. The U.S. exported $2.55 billion of the factory equipment used to manufacture photovoltaic devices (e.g., solar panels), and $2.52 billion worth of polysilicon (the primary component of solar panels) which requires massive amounts of electricity for its manufacture. Thanks to cheap hydroelectric power in the Pacific Northwest, the U.S. is competitive in the manufacture of polysilicon. Thus, although the U.S. imported $1.15 billion in solar panels from China (Chinese solar panel manufacturers have 58 percent of the world’s solar panel manufacturing capacity), SEIA maintains that other parts of the solar industry more than offset those imports. So don’t count the U.S. out in the competition for the future of the solar industry.