Which Is Worse: Buying Solar Panels from Eurasia or Oil from OPEC?

| About: Guggenheim Solar (TAN)

Solar energy panel sales were up 48% to 5.6 Gigawatts (GW), but we need a stimulus package to create jobs in the U.S., according to a report Opportunities in The Solar Cell Market For Thin Film Technology, recently published by The Information Network.

Nevertheless, less than 14% of solar panel production – 750 Megawatts (MW) – was produced in the U.S. Europe produced more than 25% (1.5 GW) and Asia 60% (3.3 GW)

While the use of renewable energy is lauded, what’s worse - buying solar panels from Europe and Asia or oil from OPEC? The Obama energy stimulus package must include ways to generate jobs here in the U.S. The alternative energy program in the U.S. needs an Energy Czar to enable job production, and I volunteer my services.

The solar energy industry is also in a flux:

  • Capacity utilization (amount of solar panels produced versus capacity is below 50%.
  • An oversupply of polysilicon is pushing prices of crystalline wafers below $5 which is impacting sales of much lower efficiency amorphous silicon panels
  • Macroeconomic issues will result in newly installed solar capacity will reach only 7.1 Gigawatts in 2009, equivalent to a global growth rate of 26%.

The solar panel market is expected to pick up again in 2010, growing 48% to 10.5 GWatts of newly installed PV systems. The thin-film sector, which includes amorphous silicon, CdTe, and CIGS, will represent less than 20% of the market in 2010. Plagued by low efficiencies in the region of 7-12%, this sector will be compensated by low manufacturing costs.