Solar Panels from China vs the US: China and the United States are the two biggest solar producers in the world. Most solar installations originate in one of these two countries. But what’s the difference between the two, which one produces the best solar panels, and does it even make that much of a difference?
Here’s what you need to know.
Most Solar Panels are Made in China
Not only does China produce more solar panels than any other country, but it also makes most of the technology that goes into these panels. As a result, even if you’re buying something that is “made in the USA”, it will likely have some kind of Chinese influence.
If you’re buying American just to support the economy, it’s important to keep this in mind.
This is something that you’ll find in many industries. Oftentimes, companies will push the “made in the USA” angle but neglect to mention that their materials are sourced from other countries and then merely assembled in the United States.
You’re still supporting US industry, of course, but it might not be the 100% American-made product that you think it is.
Chinese Solar Panels are Just As Good
China doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to manufacturing. It’s associated with cheap knock-offs sourced from sites like Alibaba. But that reputation is largely undeserved.
There are certainly products out there that are designed to be cheap and cheerful, products that can’t compare to those made elsewhere, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. China is the world’s manufacturing hub and it makes many of the products that you use every day.
When it comes to solar panels, you can find some very good and incredibly efficient panels with that “made in China” tag. Of course, there are also some low-quality solar panels produced in China, but the same could be said for the United States. There are good and bad producers and products in all countries.
Why Is it China vs America?
If China can make products that are just as good as the ones produced in the US, why is there such a hot debate about China vs the United States?
It mostly comes down to politics, as there is a lot of that surrounding the solar industry.
In 2021, the US banned the importation of products made by one of China’s biggest providers due to alleged forced labor practices. Import tariffs have also been imposed on Chinese products. What’s more, consumers are keen to buy locally and support US industry.
The US has a proud manufacturing history and it is also in close competition with China. Not only are these two countries the biggest in the solar panel sector, but they are also the globe’s two biggest manufacturers and economies, and so there has been a push for American consumers to buy American-made products.
Where are They Produced?
California was made for solar power. The Golden State is home to great weather, a liberal populace, and some of the biggest tech companies in the world. It’s also the most populous state in the country, and a largely affluent one at that.
As a result, it’s no surprise that many US solar panels are manufactured in CA.
Auxin Solar, CertainTeed Solar, CSUN, Lumos Solar, MiaSolé, and Sun Power all support the California solar panels installation industry, and these are just the tip of the iceberg.
In China, Shaanxi is one of the provinces tasked with fueling the solar boom. It’s far from the country’s biggest economy, but it plays an important role in the fossil fuel and high-technology sectors. It’s also home to the country’s biggest solar power manufacturer, LONGi Green Energy Technology.
As a consumer, you could be paying more for those California-produced panels, as the cost of living is much higher in CA and this is usually passed on to the consumer. However, the tariffs and other import costs mean the prices are more balanced than you would expect.
For most customers, whether they use US solar panels or opt for panels made in China will largely depend on price, as well as the reputation of the brand.
A brand can sell high-quality solar panels regardless of where the parts and panels are actually produced. The price can vary considerably and paying more doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting a higher-quality product.
As with everything else, it all comes down to reputation and user reviews. If you’re in the market for some solar panels, think less about where those panels or parts were made, and more about how long the panels will last, how much they will cost, and whether they are efficient enough to do the job that you need.
Solar panels are more popular than ever and the biggest brands sell their products all over the world. As a result, there is no shortage of reviews out there and it should be easy to get an honest opinion.
Conclusion: The US vs China in the Race for Solar
As far as solar energy is concerned, the future is now. This is no longer a technology that could prove useful in 5, 10, or 20 years. It’s one that we need right now, with the rising costs of energy and the need for drastic climate solutions pushing solar higher on our list of priorities.
China and the United States are the two leading providers and are battling for dominance in this growing industry. It’s debatable as to who produces the best solar panels, but their market dominance is indisputable.
Whether that continues, however, remains to be seen. China went from over a 50% market share in 2017 to 33% today, and countries like India, Japan, and Vietnam are also increasing their share. Even the EU is getting in on the act and has the capabilities to be a leading player.
Solar’s not going anywhere, but the grip that the US and China have on this sector might loosen in the future.
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