Employment Drops Despite Rise in U.S. PV Shipments

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A new report from the Energy Department (DOE) finds that employment in the U.S. PV sector has declined despite an increase in the shipments of PV modules of 43 percent in 2011.

The statistics, gathered by the DOE’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), show that US solar companies have shipped enough modules to generate 3.77 GW of power, an increase of over 1GW from the 2.64 GW shipped in 2010. This rise is indicative of a spike in PV demand at the end of 2011, before subsidies and tax breaks for PV were phased out.

According to the EIA, the growth was partly propelled by slumping prices of PV cells and modules caused by a competitive market, as well as a rush to ship modules and start projects before the expiration of the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and the 1603 Treasury Program, which expired at the end of 2011.

But the EIA claims that employment in the sector has decreased by nearly 10 percent to just under 15,800 reflective of the tough global market.

A solar farm at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Photo Credit: Suntech

Meanwhile, the European Photovoltaics Industry Association (EPIA) claims that global PV installations grew at a much faster rate than did US shipments over the same period – according to EPIA data, PV shipments increased by 76 percent, with a power output that swelled from 16.8 GW in 2010 to 29.7 GW in 2011.

US imports of PV modules reached 3.32 GW in 2011, with more than half coming from China, 21 percent from the Philippines, and 16 percent from Malaysia.

At the same time, exports amounted to only 0.79 GW, while Germany, the largest market for photovoltaics, accounted for one-fifth of exports, ahead of Canada, France, Italy and India.

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