Solar products are one of the few areas where the United States actually exports more than it imports. Who says that green energy isn’t good for the economy. Solar energy is one area that is giving the U.S. an edge in exports and boost in jobs and revenue.
According to the U. S. Solar Energy Trade Assessment 2011, as reported in Climate Progress, the United States had net solar product exports of $1.9 billion in 2010. That is about $1billion more than in 2009. Although the U.S. is a net importer of thin film feedstock, wafers, cells, modules and inverters, the country has strong exports at the beginning of the process with capital equipment and polysilicon.
According to Solarbuzz the United States was fifth in PV Markets in 2010 with just .95 GW of solar installations. The top four markets were Germany with 7.74 GW, Italy with 3.74 GW, the Czech Republic with 1.42 GW, and Japan with .96 GW. China actually came in as number seven with .53 GW. China’s seventh place standing doesn’t reflect its growth in solar wafer manufacturing.
Grist reported earlier this year that in California, China was picking up a larger share of the solar wafer and solar module market. In January of 2010 The New York Times reported that China had increased its market share from two percent to 46 percent over the previous three year span. In spite of that loss of market share, the U. S. is still exporting more solar products than importing.
The U.S. solar industry grew by 100 percent. That growth was fueled by the Treasury Grant Program and Loan Guarantee Program which made financing in the solar sector easier. There were other significant findings of the report:
According to the trade assessment report, around 73 percent of the value of an installed solar system (equipment, labor, site management) is created domestically. When looking at the total solar-sector contribution to the economy, solar PV represents about 82 percent of the domestic value, with concentrating solar power and solar heating and cooling representing about 9 percent a piece.
While this report shows that the solar industry has been good for the U.S. economy both in its net export balance and job creation, the two programs that promoted the growth of the industry are set to expire. With the mood of the current Congress, programs to boost financial investments in green energy like solar are prime targets for cuts. If that happens, the U.S. stands to lose one of the few bright areas of our export picture. Solar is likely to draw to a standstill and jobs dry up.