U.S. Solar Photovoltaic Manufacturing: Industry Trends, Global Competition, Federal Support [April 27, 2012] [open pdf - 594KB]
"Every president since Richard Nixon has sought to increase U.S. energy supply diversity. In recent years, job creation and the development of a domestic renewable energy manufacturing base have joined national security and environmental concerns as rationales for promoting the manufacturing of solar power equipment in the United States. The federal government maintains a variety of tax credits, loan guarantees, and targeted research and development programs to encourage the solar manufacturing sector, and state-level mandates that utilities obtain specified percentages of their electricity from renewable sources have bolstered demand for large solar projects. The most widely used solar technology involves photovoltaic (PV) solar modules, which draw on semiconducting materials to convert sunlight into electricity. By year-end 2011, the total number of grid-connected PV systems nationwide reached almost 215,000. Domestic demand is met both by imports and by about 100 U.S. manufacturing facilities employing an estimated 25,000 U.S. workers in 2011. Production is clustered in a few states, including California, Oregon, Texas, and Ohio. […] The competitiveness of solar PV as a source of electric generation in the United States will likely be adversely affected both by the expiration of these tax provisions and by the rapid development of shale gas, which has the potential to lower the cost of gas-fired power generation and reduce the cost-competitiveness of solar power, particularly as an energy source for utilities. In light of these developments, the ability to build a significant U.S. production base for PV equipment is in question."
CRS Report for Congress, R42509