US shipments of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules, also referred to as solar panels, reached record-high levels driven by significant price declines and policy incentives that encouraged solar PV installation, the country's Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a statement on Wednesday.
US PV shipments reached a record of 16.4 million kilowatts (kW), 2.9 million kW more than the previous record of 13.5 million kW set in 2016, the EIA said.
Solar PV module shipments, including imports, exports, and modules produced and sold domestically, have steadily increased since 2006, except for declines in 2017 and 2018 when policy reforms and import tariffs went into effect, the agency explained.
The low costs of PV modules since 2006 have helped drive the growth of solar module shipments.
Higher module efficiency, greater labor productivity, and lower supply chain costs are largely responsible for the decline in the average value of solar PV modules.
“The average value of solar PV module shipments, a proxy for price, decreased from $3.50 per peak watt in 2006 to $0.40 per peak watt in 2019,” it said.
The EIA further maintained that the recent price declines of modules and components that began in mid-2016 are partly linked to both global oversupplies arising from lower demand in China and improved cost-competitiveness within the industry.
In 2018 when the US government placed tariffs on imported solar cells and modules, solar PV module shipments recorded the fewest shipments since 2014, largely as a result of new tariffs.
Imports accounted for 94% of total solar photovoltaic shipments in 2019. Anti-dumping tariffs levied in 2012 and 2014 on solar products from China and Taiwan caused some producers of solar photovoltaics in the two countries to outsource their production to countries not protected by the anti-dumping duties, it said.
Malaysia has attracted a number of solar panel companies that are looking to manufacture their panels offshore, including some Chinese and Taiwanese companies as well as American, German, South Korean and Japanese firms.
The EIA said that Malaysia is now one of the world's largest manufacturers of solar panels, and in 2019, it was the leading country of origin for US solar panel imports, exporting 4.8 million peak kW.
By Sibel Morrow