This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

November 30, 2005

EIA Report Says Solar Manufacturing Grew Significantly in 2004

Photo of complex machinery in a manufacturing line, featuring a long row of nearly square solar cells on a conveyor belt.

U.S. manufacturers produced more than 181 megawatts of solar cells and modules in 2004.
Credit: Shell Solar Industries

The U.S. manufacture of both solar thermal collectors and solar photovoltaic power devices surged in 2004, according to DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA). An EIA report released on November 22nd shows a 23 percent growth in 2004 in shipments of solar thermal collectors, a market heavily dominated by low-temperature collectors for applications such as water heating. Florida and California lead the domestic market for solar thermal collectors. One reason for the growth in sales: the price dropped 24 percent from 2003 levels, to $2.43 per square foot in 2004.

The report also found a 66 percent increase in shipments of solar photovoltaic cells and modules, to more than 181 megawatts of solar power capacity. Domestic shipments increased 61 percent, to more than 78 megawatts. Both imports and exports increased, with nearly 103 megawatts going overseas and nearly 48 megawatts entering the country. The EIA credits the growth to plant expansions, a new Sharp facility in Tennessee, and innovative technologies. One sign of that innovation is a doubling in thin-film solar shipments, to nearly 22 megawatts of capacity. Grid-interactive electricity generation became the dominant end-use of the solar cells and modules, reaching a market share of 71 percent in 2004, up from 39 percent in 2003. See the report, "Solar Thermal and Photovoltaic Collector Manufacturing Activities 2004."

Among the recent indicators of the surging growth in solar power: Hemlock Semiconductor Corporation, the world's leading producer of polycrystalline silicon, is citing solar power demand as the reason for an expansion of its plant in Hemlock, Michigan. The expansion will increase the production capacity of the plant by 50 percent by January 2009. Work on the expansion will start in December and will cost up to $500 million. Hemlock Semiconductor is a joint venture of Dow Chemical Company and two Japanese firms. See the Dow press release.