Solar energy is becoming more and more popular. It’s clean, renewable, and has substantial potential to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. But have you ever stopped to think about where the solar panels that make all this possible are made?
This blog post will take a closer look at where are most solar panels manufactured and manufacturing process for solar panels, uncovering insights into where these photovoltaic products are manufactured around the world and exploring how their production may shift in years to come. No matter if you already use solar energy or are considering installing it in your own home or business, stay tuned as we delve into a fascinating journey across time zones!
Global Solar Panel Manufacturing Industry
Have you ever wondered where those solar panels on top of someone’s rooftop were made? Well, the answer isn’t as simple as just one location. To gain a comprehensive understanding, it is essential to trace the entire solar supply chain from the end product to its most basic parts and raw materials.
The panel comprises weather protection, glass cover, frame, photovoltaic (PV) cell encapsulants, and extra sealants and glue. Every single one of these parts comes from different manufacturing processes and primary materials located in various regions. It’s truly amazing how many pieces, processes, and places are involved in creating something that helps reduce our carbon footprint.
Solar power has become increasingly popular as the world shifts towards cleaner energy sources. In 2020, the US imported approximately 86% of its new solar photovoltaic (PV) modules, which have the capacity to generate 26.7 GW of electricity. That’s enough to supply the electricity needs of Arizona in sweltering summer months.
Most of the imported solar modules originated from countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and South Korea, and infamous China only accounted for 1% of module imports to the US by the end of the year. As the global demand for clean energy continues to rise, it’s exciting to see the growing role of solar power in meeting our energy needs.
When it comes to sourcing materials for solar modules, silicon wafers are one of the key components. These thin slices of silicon act as semiconductors and are responsible for capturing sunlight and converting it into usable energy. Despite their importance, the vast majority of wafer manufacturing is controlled by China, which has significant implications for the global solar industry.
Longi Green Energy Technology Co. is responsible for a significant portion of wafer production worldwide, with an estimated market share of 25%. While this may seem like cause for concern, it’s important to remember that Longi and other Chinese companies are also driving innovation in the solar space, constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with renewable energy.
Imposing Restrictions on the Import of Silicon From Chinese Companies
The manufacturing of silicon wafers may not be something that most people think about in their day-to-day lives, but it is an essential part of the electronics industry. However, recent reports have shed light on the darker side of this process, particularly when it comes to the production of solar-grade polysilicon. It has been discovered that approximately 50% of the material is manufactured in the western region of China, known as the Uyghur Region, where there is evidence of the forced relocation and labor of the Uyghur population.
This problem extends beyond the solar industry and affects the entire electronics industry that depends on silicon semiconductors. Fortunately, efforts are being made to address this violation of human rights. Recently, due to these serious allegations, the Biden Administration has taken action by imposing restrictions on the import of silicon materials from five Chinese companies. We must be aware of where our products come from and their impact on people’s lives, no matter how far removed we may feel from the supply chain.
Solar modules consist of many components, but the frames might be the most viable of them all. Made from aluminum, the material for these frames is almost 40% recycled. Compared to other component sources, most frame manufacturers are located in China.
This is also the case for encapsulants, back sheets, and glass materials, as China dominates these industries. While Germany plays a smaller role in these markets, the industry is on the rise, offering exciting new opportunities for sustainable energy production.
U.S. Solar Market
Over the past decade, the U.S. solar market has experienced a significant boom. There is a worldwide shift towards renewable energy, and solar power is at the forefront of this trend. It is remarkable that solar photovoltaics (PV) now make up approximately 40% of all new electricity generation capacity installed in the United States. In just ten years, this represents an incredible leap from 4%.
The growth in the industry is inspirational, as is the opportunity it offers for creating jobs. The stats speak for themselves: In 2020, the solar industry in the United States employed around 242,000 individuals and successfully installed over two million solar PV systems.
Decline of Solar Production in USA
The United States has a rich history when it comes to the solar industry. During the 1970s, the United States held a significant market share, manufacturing 90% of the world’s solar products, thanks in large part to the government’s support for research and development. However, times have changed, and most solar manufacturing has shifted to Asia.
Manufacturing in the United States decreased by 80% between 2010 and 2019. What’s behind this decline? Interestingly, it’s not due to a lack of demand. Rather, it’s largely because Chinese manufacturers have been able to produce solar modules more cheaply thanks to lower labor and production costs and government support.
Which Manufacturer Should I Choose?
When it comes to buying solar panels, it can seem challenging to find a manufacturer whose supply chain doesn’t extend beyond the United States. But, whether you’re concerned about the quality of materials or you’re interested in ethical and social considerations, it’s worth paying attention to where your solar panels come from.
For instance, you may want to purchase from countries with positive human rights records and non-repressive forms of government to support ethical business practices. Some manufacturers do a better job than others of following the Solar Energy Industries Association’s Traceability Protocol, so this is a helpful factor to examine.
Additionally, independent supply chain reports offer valuable information on the origins of any solar panel you may consider purchasing. By doing your research, you can make a choice that aligns with your values and provides the best results for your energy needs.
In conclusion, we have found that the majority of solar panels come from China. However, buying solar panels does not need to be a thoughtless decision. As evidenced by the numerous countries around the world involved in manufacturing, it is important to consider the ethical and environmental concerns associated with the business practices of a certain supplier regardless of their geographical location.
The benefits of solar energy are undeniable, so you should be sure that you’re researching different companies closely before deciding which one to get your panels from. It can be worth it to invest in non-Chinese companies for peace of mind that it has been produced responsibly and sustainably. So if you are already set on going solar, make sure you follow us for more updates and stay informed on where your solar panels have come from.