Solar modules to US mainly from Malaysia, China, S Korea

Source: US Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-63B, Annual Photovoltaic Cell/Module Shipments

February 15 (Renewables Now) - The US imported 13 GW direct current (DC) of solar modules in 2016, the bulk of which came from Asia, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday.

Malaysia, China and South Korea accounted for two-thirds of 2016 imports, which, as a whole, were up from 2 GW DC in 2010.

At the same time, the US installed 8 GW of utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) capacity and 3 GW of small-scale capacity in 2016, corresponding to around 14 GW of DC capacity. EIA says that "many of the PV systems installed in 2016 probably used imported panels when adjusted for DC-to-AC conversion losses."

The US recently approved safeguard tariffs on imports of silicon solar cells and modules, starting at 30% in the first year and gradually going down to 15% in the fourth year. The first 2.5 GW DC of imported unassembled solar cells a year will be exempt from the measure, which is a small portion of total US imports.

Unlike previous tariffs imposed by the US, which were aimed at specific countries, the latest levies affect almost all major sources of PV imports, EIA says. After the 2014 tariffs for instance, some manufacturers in China and Taiwan outsourced production elsewhere, which led to growing imports into the US mainly from Malaysia, but also from South Korea, Singapore and Germany, the article states. 

The agency notes that solar modules account for only part of total system costs, estimated at between 22% (for residential systems) and 45% (for fixed-axis utility-scale systems) in 2016. Prices for PV modules have declined by nearly 40% since 2012.

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Plamena has been a UK-focused reporter for many years. As part of the Renewables Now team she is taking a keen interest in policy moves.

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