USA: Slowdown in 2009 while Imports go up
 USA: Slowdown in 2009 while Imports go up

USA Market Development

USA: Slowdown in 2009 while Imports go up

Slowdown in the US: After the 2008 peak, the total sold area of medium temperature collectors decreased by 5 % in 2009, to 204,700 m2. Exports amounted to only 2,100 m2 of collector area, which means that the newly installed collector area in the United States in 2009 adds up to a total of 202,500 m2.
Source: Energy Information Administration

These are some of the results from the annual solar thermal report published by the Energy Information Administration of the US government in December 2010 (see the attached report). The above-mentioned chart includes export and import figures, but not the unglazed collector and pool heating sectors. A growing number of 88 manufacturers and importers participated in the annual survey in 2009 (2008: 74).

The market developed very differently for each collector technology. Integrated storage collectors and thermosiphon systems experienced the hardest slump, with –53 %. The shipment of vacuum tube collectors decreased by 7 %. Flat plate collector sales, in contrast, even showed a slight upward movement of 8 %.

The EIA report also covers the segment of high temperature collectors with operating temperatures of more than 180 °F (82 °C). The shipped area in 2009 more than doubled compared to the previous year, from 36,000 to 91,000 m2. More than 70 % of it had been imported. 61 % were used for process heat applications, 38 % for electricity production and 1 % for solar cooling systems.

The EIA report points out that the market share of national collector manufacturers is shrinking: Imports of medium temperature collectors increased again slightly in 2009, from 63,800 m2 to 66,400 m2. The following table shows the great changes in the numbers of medium and high temperature collectors imported from different countries. Whereas Germany, Austria and China were able to strongly increase their share on the US market, Canada, Australia and Turkey lost much ground.

Import from… Development of 2009 imports compared to 2008
China 86%
Germany 504%
Canada -68%
Australia -43%
Turkey -31%
Great Britain 7%
France 33%
Austria 144%

Winners and losers on the import market. The figures consist of medium temperature (operating temperatures between 140 and 180 °F = 60 to 82 °C) and high temperature collector (above 180 °F = 82 °C) sales. They also include some high temperature collectors used for power generation.
Source: EIA

A few more conclusions from the EIA report in brief:

  • The segment of pool heating with unglazed collectors dropped heavily, from 1,103,689 m2 to 825,165 m2 – a whopping 25%.
  • Many of the surveyed companies are planning to introduce new solar collectors. 16 companies announced to launch a new medium temperature collector and 11 enterprises have plans to introduce a new high-temperature collector.
  • In 2009, 1,321 people worked in the solar thermal industry – an increase of 22% to the previous year.

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Baerbel Epp

Bärbel Epp is Founder and Director of the German communication and market research agency solrico and editor-in-chief of