One of the bigger controversies in the last few years as been the Chinese practice of “dumping” photovoltaic (PV) panels into the U.S. marketplace, driving down prices and making American PV panels look less competitive as a result. The conventional wisdom is that China can produce solar panels for homes so cheaply because the manufacturing firms pay their workers much less than American companies could get away with. But a new study from the U.S. Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) calls these assumptions into question.
The report, titled “Assessing the Drivers of Regional Trends in Solar Photovoltaic Manufacturing,” and published in the peer-reviewed journal Energy & Environmental Science, states that technological advancement, production scale and supply chain management innovation has done more to make Chinese solar panels cheaper than have labor costs. They also suggest that U.S. manufacturers could mimic Chinese practices to make their products more competitive in the global marketplace.
“Our analysis finds that investments in technology research and development are critical not only to the widespread deployment of solar PV in most locations, without subsidy, but also may equalize factors that affect regional competitiveness, thus creating opportunities for U.S.-based manufacturers,” NREL Senior Analyst Alan Goodrich said in a press release.
It would be great for the U.S. economy if California solar installers could purchase their panels from American manufacturers at a competitive price, thereby creating more jobs here at home rather than sending the money overseas. The drop in solar panel prices over the last decade has been key to growth in the industry, so finding a solution to the Chinese “dumping” problem that keeps this technology affordable for families would be a major victory for the industry and customers.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the financial and environmental benefits of California solar power, contact West Coast Solar today.