China’s Exports of Solar Panel Equipment and the Rise of a “Green” New Jersey

The NY Times reports; “Installers, often working through big-box chains like Home Depot or Lowe’s, are taking advantage of hefty tax breaks, creative financing techniques and a glut of cheap, Chinese-made panels to make solar power accessible to the mass market for the first time. The number of residential and commercial installations more than doubled over the last two years to 213,957, according to Greentech Media, a research firm.”

In a NY Times Room for Debate piece from January 2011, I anticipated and celebrated this trend and received a lot of angry comments.  My debate piece was based on research that Aparna Sawhney and I have conducted on U.S import trends in renewable power equipment.  The rise of India and China as exporters of green tech to the U.S is impressive.

Folks were angry with me because they believe that U.S “green jobs” will be lost and nascent U.S green companies will lose out to China’s green juggernaut.   This is likely to be true for firms that produce a perfect substitute for a product that China can mass produce.    International trade lowers the price of goods. In a world where we haven’t priced carbon, we need renewable electricity generation equipment to be cheap.  Trade with China helps to make this a reality.