2-12-2015 U.S. Solar Manufacturing Growth Continues as Market Expands
The U.S. has become the third largest solar market in the world, with a solar demand supporting over 173,000 jobs. In the solar manufacturing sector there are 29,000 jobs at over 650 manufacturing facilities in the United States. PV manufacturing facilities exist in 28 states around the country and are producing all the necessary components for solar PV installations, including solar-grade polysilicon, silicon ingots, wafers, cells, panels, and inverters. As the demand for US solar energy is growing, the U.S. solar manufacturing sector is growing along with it. Here’s a look at the factors contributing to that growth in recent years.
Growth of the U.S. Residential Solar Market
Though utility photovoltaic (PV) installations account for the majority of the market’s growth, residential PV installations are continuing to rise. Of all the solar segments, the residential market has seen the most consistent growth, and it shows no signs of slowing.
Policy that Supports Solar Manufacturing
The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) included a competitive tax credit capped at $2.3 billion in total tax expenditures for advanced energy manufacturing projects (Section 48C). Credits were awarded to solar manufacturing companies in at least 21 states, helping to jump start operations.
Currently, no federal incentives are available to companies trying to build manufacturing facilities in the United States, but groups such as SEIA continue to advocate for an extension or creation of solar manufacturing tax credits to keep up with the burdgeoning international market.
In order to compete, strong American policy should be crafted protect the interests U.S. Solar Manufacturers. The Anti-Dumping Tariff imposed on Chinese PV panels that come into the U.S. is one example of such a measure that makes buying cheaper foreign products less desirable.
However, even as the Obama administration is committed to renewable energy development, more consistent policies are needed to protect stateside solar manufacturing as countries such as China and Germany are providing stable support and subsidy which have caused rampant growth.
The SunShot Initiative
One way to get funds for solar manufacturing operations is through the Sun-Shot Initiative. An increase in the U.S. market demand has attracted solar manufacturers stateside. It has also revealed the positive effects of the Energy Department’s investments in solar.
Three solar manufacturing companies that received research and development funding from the Department’s Sun-shot Technology to Market initiative recently announced plans to expand in the U.S. These plans include creating 200 new jobs at an established factory in Oregon and the implementation of a new 200 megawatt plant currently running in Michigan. A third company has just started laying the foundation for its one gigawatt capacity factory in New York.
Sun-shot is a DOE initiative that is focused on making solar in the U.S. ubiquitous by lowering soft costs, supporting manufacturers, and developing financial opportunities. Opportunities continue to be announced.