China emerges as a scapegoat for stealing the U.S. photovoltaic industry. President Obama in his address to State of the Union pledged not to give up the photovoltaic industry to China. The Coalition of American Solar Manufacturers (CASM) filed antidumping and countervailing duty complaints against China with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and Commerce Department.
Paradoxically it was China, labelled as the developing world’s biggest polluter, that made a breakthrough towards realizing a full potential of the solar industry, one of the largest renewable energy sectors. Price of polysilicon, the main raw material in solar panels, has plunged from $450 per kilogram in 2008 to about $45 per kilogram in 2012 driven by fast growth of the Chinese solar panel-manufacturing industry. Today China accounts for 60% of the world’s solar-panel production and exports 95 percent of its production. What did the “Chinese solar revolution” bring us?
In 2011 the global annually installed solar capacity increased to about 30 gigawatts, fivefold from pathetic 6 gigawat in 2008. The price per Watt of solar modules (not counting installation) is dropping from $10 dollars in 90′s down to $1 today.
Are Chinese trading practices unfair? They are, but so what? Probably the right question would be: did the “Chinese solar revolution” make the world a better place?
If the Chinese government is set to promote the global utilization of solar energy at their own expense, let them. The Chinese economy is a huge Ponzi pyramid, blown up by currency manipulations and easy credits to manufacturers. The Chinese trade deficit is only one evidence that this elaborate government-sponsored pyramid is already cracking up, even without U.S. pressure.
We would be better off by exercising our competitiveness in the areas where U.S. has technological edge, like two U.S. startups, Astrowatt and Twin Creeks Technologies. These two companies are struggling to cut the cost of solar cells in half by making thinner wafers of crystalline silicon.