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Survey: U.S. Solar Manufacturers Provide Jobs and Spur Activity

Four of the founding manufacturers of the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing (CASM) purchased more than a combined $400 million in goods and services from other manufacturers and employers in 46 states in 2011, according to a CASM survey. This flow of business highlights just one dimension of solar manufacturing’s multiplier effect in supporting jobs and spurring activity across the U.S. economy, according to CASM. The coalition of about 190 U.S. employers of more than 16,000 American workers contends the nation cannot afford to lose its own industry, particularly in light of advanced manufacturing’s power to generate high-paying and stable jobs and beneficial ripple effects, including research and innovation. Instead, CASM seeks trade law enforcement to restore legal international competition and domestic manufacturing growth.

CASM is backing an anti-subsidy and anti-dumping trade case against the Chinese industry. In March, the U.S. government issued a preliminary ruling that at least 10 categories of Chinese government programs illegally subsidize Chinese producers of solar cells and panels. China’s export drive has caused a dozen U.S. solar manufacturers to shut down, declare bankruptcy or lay off employees in all U.S. regions since 2010, CASM alleges, even though the National Renewable Energy Laboratory concluded Chinese producers face a cost disadvantage in producing and delivering solar into the U.S. market.

According to the CASM purchasing survey, four of the coalition’s seven founding manufacturers purchased a total of more than $1 million in goods and services in 21 states and at least $50 million in four states: Oregon ($86 million), Pennsylvania ($74 million), Michigan ($60.8 million), and California ($50 million). The total reportedly helps employers cover payrolls in upstream sectors such as glass fabrication, polysilicon production and aluminum extrusion, and downstream services such as auditing, laboratory analysis, and transportation.

The survey tally excludes many economic inputs, such as interest and tax payments, as well as payroll for employees, ranging from doctorate-level researchers to production workers. SolarWorld, the largest U.S. solar manufacturer for more than 35 years, employs more than 1,100 workers in Oregon and California. Average annual compensation for permanent, full-time SolarWorld employees exceeds the national average of $45,230 provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, the survey did not account for downstream support that employees of the four solar manufacturers and their vendors paid out to still other businesses—for daycare firms, supermarkets, and car and TV dealers—in their own lives, not to mention the personal interest and taxes they paid and the property they purchased.

CASM contends advanced manufacturing at firms such as SolarWorld—which undertakes all phases of solar production, from growing silicon crystals to producing wafers and cells to assembling panels—is well-recognized as an economic engine.

“Manufacturing companies in the United States are responsible for over two-thirds of the industrial R&D and employ the majority of domestic scientists and engineers,” according to a January report on U.S. competitiveness prepared by the U.S. Department of Commerce in consultation with the National Economic Council. “Furthermore, manufacturing R&D is the dominant source of innovative new service-sector technologies; hence, its benefits reach beyond the manufacturing arena.”

The survey of purchasing of goods and services covered SolarWorld, Helios, MX and one anonymous founding manufacturer. Three CASM manufacturers did not participate. 

For additional information, visit www.americansolarmanufacturing.org.

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