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Solar Group Touts Economic Impact, Backs China Dumping Case

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Solar panels (credit: Wikimedia)

Solar panels (credit: Wikimedia)

WASHINGTON — Four of the founding manufacturers of the Coalition for American Solar Manufacturing 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.

Michigan was the nation’s No. 3 state in CASM member purchasing in 2011, at $60.9 million, topped only by Pennsylvania ($74.1 million) and Oregon ($86 million).

The full study may be viewed at this link. http://www.americansolarmanufacturing.org/news-releases/casm-made-in-america.pdf

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 is seeking 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. CASM contends that 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.

Michigan’s homegrown solar panel producer, Energy Conversion Devices Inc. of Rochester Hills, is now in bankruptcy, attempting to sell its Auburn Hills-based Uni-Solar panel business as a going concern. Chemical industry giant Dow Chemical Co. of Midland has also jumped into the solar panel business with its Powerhouse solar shingles (see related story, this section).

CASM said the purchasing survey excludes many economic inputs, such as interest and tax payments, as well as payroll for employees, ranging from Ph.D. researchers to production workers. CASM leader 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 — everything from day care centers to supermarkets to auto and appliance 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 extraordinarily well-recognized as an economic engine.

According to an industry white paper published in March by the SEMI PV Group, which represents companies in the solar energy supply chain, “While PV creates significant job creation in the installation of solar modules (over 50% of total solar jobs are in installation and sales), long-term job creation in manufacturing will create greater economic stability through a greater multiplier effect that will generate significant additional employment in adjacent industries.”

The paper cites National Association of Manufacturing findings, backed by similar results from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, that “each dollar’s worth of manufactured goods creates another $1.43 of activity in other sectors, twice the $.71 multiplier for services.”

Equally well-established is the intimate connection between manufacturing and innovation – as well as the additional business and academic development associated with it, according to CASM.

“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.”

Founding manufacturers include Helios Solar Works of Milwaukee, Wis., and MX Solar USA of Somerset, N.J., both solar panel manufacturers. Helios and MX each have production capacity equal to or greater than the only Chinese-owned solar factory in the Western Hemisphere, a final assembly production line in Arizona. Four founding manufacturers have chosen to remain anonymous, a choice that the U.S. Department of Commerce protects to shield them from business retaliation.

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

In the next key step in the trade cases, the Department of Commerce on May 17 will announce its preliminary determination on whether Chinese manufacturers have illegally dumped products in the U.S. market and, if so, at what percentage margins. If margins are issued, importers of Chinese solar products would be required to post bonds or cash deposits in the amounts of those margins as duties on further imports.

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