US solar panel shipments rose 33% in 2020

Solar PV module shipments reached a record high in the U.S. market in 2020, up 33% year on year.

September 3, 2021

From pv magazine USA

U.S. solar PV module shipments – including imports, exports, and domestic production and sales)  – rose by about one-third year on year between 2019 and 2020, according to new figures from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The EIA reported a record high of 21.8 million peak kW shipped in 2020, which is a 5.4 million peak kW gain over the 2019 total. In 2020, 89% of U.S. solar panel shipments were imports, and total peak imported kilowatts rose by 26%. Vietnam was the leading exporter to the United States, followed by Malaysia, South Korea, and Thailand.

In August, a group of companies asked the U.S. Department of Commerce to impose antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) orders on a handful of producers of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and modules that are imported from Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. The American Solar Manufacturers Against Chinese Circumvention filed three petitions through the law firm Wiley Rein requesting that the commerce department investigate what it said were “unfairly traded imports” from the three countries.

In their petition, the U.S. companies complained that after AD/CVD duties were imposed on Chinese-origin solar cells, Chinese integrated producers started building cell and module assembly plants across Southeast Asia, while continuing “to rely heavily” on Chinese labor, raw materials, and inputs.

Capacity additions

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The EIA said in its report that solar capacity additions rose 25% between 2019 and 2020, with utility-scale solar recording the largest gain at 29%. Small-scale solar projects of less than 1 MW rose by 19%.

Despite supply chain disruptions, which remain an ongoing issue, prices continued to fall. The average value of solar shipments, a useful proxy for prices, fell from $1.96 per peak watt in 2010 to $0.38 per peak watt in 2020, the EIA said.

One factor that drove growth despite pandemic-driven supply chain constraints was the scheduled reduction of the federal investment tax credit (ITC). In December 2020, Congress passed an extension of the ITC, providing a 26% tax credit for the 2020-22 year, and 22% in 2023.

Residential installation growth was also driven in part by an increase in home improvement projects, as consumers spent more time at home, said the EIA.

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