U.S. solar power plants are booming, driven by generous tax incentives from the Inflation Reduction Act. But until new production lines for U.S.-based PV manufacturing reach full capacity, domestic solar installers will still rely heavily on foreign-made components.
According to data from Panjiva, the supply chain research arm of S&P Global Market Intelligence (S&P), U.S. photovoltaic module imports surged 90.5% in the second quarter of 2023 compared with the same period last year, reaching 50,409 shipping containers of 20-foot equivalent units.
The new high in imports also marks the fourth consecutive quarter of growth since President Biden exempted tariffs on crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells and modules from Southeast Asia in June 2022. The cells and components are said to have circumvented ten years of tariffs on China.
The U.S. Commerce Department is expected to make a final decision in August on whether manufacturers can avoid anti-dumping and countervailing duties imposed by the Obama administration in 2012 by assembling products in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam using Chinese-made components. A preliminary ruling in December 2022 found that some imports from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam had circumvented tariffs.
Panjiva data shows that First Solar Vietnam Manufacturing Company, a subsidiary of Arizona-based thin-film photovoltaic manufacturer First Solar, was the largest single solar exporter to the United States in the second quarter of 2023, followed by Trina Solar Energy Development Company , the company is a subsidiary of China Trina Solar Co., Ltd. in Singapore.
The third is Boviet Solar Technology Company registered in Vietnam. This company is a subsidiary of Boviet Group registered in Vietnam, and the group headquarters is also in China.
However, according to Market Intelligence global trade analysis data, if measured by module capacity rather than shipping containers, U.S. solar module imports fell by nearly 11% quarter-on-quarter in the second quarter of 2023 to 11.6GW, compared with 13GW in the first quarter of this year.
The same point is that in the second quarter of 2023, Vietnam accounted for the highest proportion of U.S. photovoltaic module imports, reaching 31.2%, followed by Thailand accounting for 22.5%, Cambodia accounting for 13.7%, and Malaysia accounting for 12.9%.
The four Southeast Asian countries together accounted for 80.3% of U.S. solar module imports during the same period. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s final ruling: 5 photovoltaic companies circumvented tariffs!
In the first half of 2023, total solar module imports were 24.6GW, and S&P Global predicts that the U.S. solar installed capacity will be close to 36GW this year. According to domestic capacity announcements tracked by Commodity Insights, U.S. solar module production capacity will reach 25.7GW by the end of 2023, up from 14.4GW at the end of 2022.
The U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association said on August 14 that since Biden signed the "Inflation Reduction Act", the private sector has committed to investing nearly $20 billion in new U.S. solar factories, covering the entire supply chain.