Today’s solar industry is momentously larger than the solar industry of even a few years ago. In this environment of prosperity new players are constantly entering the game, old players are expanding in all directions, and the implications and effects of solar energy are spreading around the globe. As awareness spreads and an increasing amount of money is changing hands, some big names pop up. Some will inevitably rise and fall. Some, notably industry organizations, remain constant. Some remain specialized while others prefer integration. The goal of all is the same: to remain a major influence in the solar industry and the spread of solar power as a renewable resource.
Following is a small list of big names. Names that are driving the solar industry today. Names that are likely to drive the solar industry far into the future.
- The Solar Energy Industries Association. The SEIA provides information and networking for its many members. The overall goal is to spread solar energy around the world by facilitating research and development, improved education, and the reduction of market barriers.
- American Solar Energy Society. The ASES has existed since 1954 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing solar and other sustainable technologies in the U.S.
- Solar Technology Acceleration Center. SolarTAC is new but bound to be a big name as solar technology accelerates in the upcoming years. The center is a collaboration between the Midwest Research Institute, Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, and several other groups. Members will have access to the world’s largest solar test site.
- Q-Cells. This German manufacturer surpassed Sharp this year to become the world leader in solar cell production. It’s no surprise that the world leader in solar manufacturing should be located in Germany, the world leader in solar power.
- First Solar is a world leader in thin-film solar cells and the only American company to climb into the world’s Top 10 solar companies.
- SolarWorld, another German-based company, has spread its influence worldwide, acquiring Shell Solar’s manufacturing assets in 2006 and a silicon wafer plant in Oregon in 2007. SolarWorld even went so far as to offer 1 billion euros for four GM plants in Europe.
- Two US companies, MEMC and Hemlock Semiconductor, and Wacker Chemie, from Germany, are among the global leaders in solar-grade silicon production. Companies such as these are at the heart of the solar industry and are just catching up with the immense demand for polysilicon.
Of course, the solar industry would not be where it is today without progressive policies from national and state governments. Germany is the world leader because Germany had the most aggressive incentives in the world. China too has ramped up production. The United States government has been a bit slower getting behind solar, but U.S. states, led by California, have taken important strides toward expanding solar power and renewable energy as a whole.
It has been these government-supported incentives that have propelled solar into the forefront of sustainable discussion today. Every company and organization listed above owes something to that and to taxpayers and homeowners who are, after all, truly the biggest names in solar power.
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