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 GTM Research and SEIA®’s U.S. Solar Energy Trade Assessment 2011. Photovoltaic (PV) components accounted for more than 99% 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.

As Treehugger reports:  Who says the US doesn’t make anything anymore? We make solar panels! Or, at least, we make the stuff that makes solar panels. And then we export it, raking in $1.9 billion annually. We export $5.6 billion worth of goods, and import $3.7 billion. Exporting solar power is actually a booming business in the US, a new report from the Solar Energy Trade Association reveals — it’s one of the few sectors where we actually have a trade surplus with China, despite the omnipresent reportage insisting that nation is already eating our lunch when it comes to renewables. In other words, solar exports are already a major boon to our economy.

However, the policies that have enabled this boom are set to expire soon, and that could lead to a major slowdown in this important, fast-growing industry.

Stephen Lacey at Renewable Energy World points out that the new figures represent a “$1 billion increase over net exports documented in the solar sector last year. In fact, a report released this morning from GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association found that the U.S. has a $247 million trade surplus with China.”

It turns out that while we import the modules — that’s where all those stories about solar PV manufacturing moving to China come in — we’re exporting polysilicon (an $873 million industry) and a bunch of solar equipment. As Lacey notes, “Solar isn’t just about the module. When looking at polysilicon production, equipment for manufacturing lines, power electronics, solar hot water tanks, and any number of other domestically-produced products, the U.S. actually offers a good-sized contribution to the global market.”

Sources: ET List, Treehugger, GreenTechMedia

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