U.S. Solar Industry exported $5.6 billion last year, according to the U.S. Solar Energy Industry Association.

The biggest export item was photovoltaic components, which accounted for more than 99 percent of last year’s exports, with solar heating and cooling equipment claiming the remainder.

For the manufacturing industry, 2010 was a record year for the photovoltaic industry. Exports totaled more than $5.6 billion and were sent mostly to China and Germany. The United States imported $3.7 billion photovoltaic products, the majority of which came from procurement of modules assembled overseas. China and Mexico topped the two sources of photovoltaic goods headed to the United States last year.

However, the U.S. sent more solar products to China than it received, by more than $340 million.

“The U.S. solar energy market continues to be a b right sport in an otherwise bleak economy,” said Rhone Resche, president and CEO of SEIA. “As the global solar industry continues to grow and evolve, the U.S. is seen more and more as a leading market – both in installations and in exports.”

Resche said the industry grew by more than 100 percent last year and achieved a significant positive trade balance.

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“Solar energy is an industry invented in the U.S. that is helping our country reclaim our manufacturing leadership, and creating tens of thousands of jobs,” he said.