The Solar Energy Industries Association has a report brimming with key facts about the exploding growth in the US solar business that now is about $6 billion per year and that now is a net exporter. See www.seia.org. While the USA has a massive trade deficit with the world and especially with China, the US solar industry is running a trade surplus of $1.9 billion.
Remarkably, perhaps shockingly, the US solar industry had in 2010 at least a $247 million surplus with China. The USA exported $1.7 billion of solar product to China and imported $1.4 billion.
Total US solar exports to all nations were $5.6 billion and imports $3.7 billion in 2010, producing a $1.9 billion trade surplus. After China, the USA's second top solar export market was Germany at $865 million and then Japan at $609 million. The US imported $480 million of product, the second highest import total, from Mexico and a solar trade deficit with Mexico.
What is the USA exporting and importing? Principally polysillicon and machines to make photovoltaics. Exports of polysillicon in 2010 were $2.5 billion and of capital equipment were $1.4 billion. The US also exported $1.2 billion of PV modules but imported $2.4 billion of modules.
The US solar industry is strong and growing, but it is in intense global competition. It is a strategic industry for economic and environmental success in this century. Asian and European nations have targeted it.
Will we build on the success to date of the US solar industry or allow the world to capture solar power? Radically different answers to that question are provided by different elected leaders.