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United States Can Compete with China in PV Manufacturing

March 1, 2012

Title: Solar PV Manufacturing Cost Analysis: U.S. Competitiveness in a Global Industry (presentation)
Authors: Alan Goodrich, Ted James, and Michael Woodhouse, NREL

Over the past five years, solar PV module shipments from China and Taiwan have grown from 6% to 54% global market share, while the United States has slipped from 9% to 6% market share. Chinese PV companies have gained an international pole position, in part, by achieving the industry's lowest silicon module manufacturing cost. There is also a clear strategic effort on the part of the Chinese government to drive an expansion into the high technology enterprises of the future, such as solar PV, by offering strong state support. Over the long term, however, several challenges facing the Chinese PV industry may affect its ability to sustain the dominant position. In this analysis we seek to quantify the decision points of two hypothetical solar PV manufacturers that are considering U.S. and non-U.S. production locations. We consider the full suite of details underlying regional differences in manufacturing, including shipping costs, policies of governance and trade, intellectual property protection, and subsidies. Going against conventional wisdom, our analysis shows that the United States is a competitive manufacturing location for solar PV modules, in select cases.

—Jim Leyshon