Independent statistics garnered by the U.S Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed that in 2009, (the report was released in November 2010) America generated just over 3.95 billion megawatt hours worth of energy. Solar energy contributed just 891,000 megawatt hours of this, slightly more than 0.02%. This is particularly shocking when one considers that the sun provides more energy to planet Earth in 60 minutes than all the countries in the world manage in an entire year.
Therefore, although solar energy is being criminally underused, there is virtually limitless potential, especially when finite fossil fuels such as natural gas and coal (makes up combined total of 70% of US energy usage) runs out. This is why there are solar energy suppliers springing up like weeds all over the world. It’s difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff but below are 5 of the very best solar energy suppliers on the planet.
5: First Solar
This company was formed in 1999 and began releasing its range of commercial products three years later. At present, First Solar is the only manufacturer of Solar Thin Film in the world and has experienced rapid growth in the last few years. They were proud to announce that in 2008, they become the first solar panel company to go below the $1 manufacturing cost per watt. At present, this cost is at $0.74 a watt with plans to reduce this still further to $0.52 by 2014.
The company manage to generate electricity with no waste production, air emissions or water usage when in operation. They are also well on course to achieve their 2.3GW capacity target by the end of 2011. With over $6,000 and a rapidly expanding revenue, expect First Solar to continue making waves in the future.
This company is based in Atlanta, Georgia and owes its roots to the research of Professor Ajeet Rohatgi who was an important part of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s University Center of Excellence in Photovoltaic’s (UCEP). Suniva formed from the excellent work of Professor Rohatgi and the company now holds well over 40 patents (both granted and pending) from UCEP.
Suniva prides itself on using low-cost manufacturing techniques in order to deliver a consistently high level of power to its customers. Currently, Suniva achieves almost 20% efficiency when in full-scale production giving it one of the highest cell conversion rates in the world. Suniva are best known for their silicon solar cells and modules.
3: Yingli Green Energy
This organization is one of China’s oldest companies and was one of the first companies in the world to manufacture fully integrated photovoltaic panels. Yingli’s headquarters are located in Baoding, China with 10 branches spread around the world. At present, it is estimated that there are 2GW Yingli solar modules installed all over the world.
The company is expanding rapidly with Hainan Yingli New Energy Resources Co. Ltd founded in 2009 to increase the company’s manufacturing capabilities. Evidence of their expansion is evident when you see that their 1GW production capacity in 2010 is set to increase to 1.7GW by the end of 2011.
This organization was founded in the 1970s. One of the co-founders, Dr. Richard Swanson, was hit by a brainwave one day around 40 years ago when he was waiting in a gas station queue. He tried to figure out a way to transform solar panels into an affordable source of energy for the general public. By 1985, SunPower was incorporated after receiving substantial investment from a pair of venture capital firms.
SunPower claim that they have the world’s most efficient solar panels at 22.4%. In fact, this is believed to be up to 50% more efficient than standard solar panel suppliers. After millions of hours spent researching and analyzing performance, SunPower are confident that their systems are among the world’s most reliable.
Also known as Suntech Power, this company is the biggest producer of solar panels in the world. By the end of 2010, its annual solar panel production capacity had reached 1,800MW. Suntech supplies solar panels to companies in 80 countries around the world with more than 13 million panels delivered to date. Its headquarters are located in Wuxi, China.
Suntech has hit the headlines for many reasons. In 2007, it completed Google’s 1.6MW solar installation. The following year, Suntech won the Frost & Sullivan award for the best Solar Energy Development Company of the Year. The company also received rich praise from MSN who named Suntech’s Andalay AC Solar PV Panel as one of 2009’s best products.
There is little doubt that the influence of solar energy is growing. How rapidly it will expand is anyone’s guess but there is little doubt that with finite fuel sources dwindling, the seemingly limitless power of the sun will eventually be harnessed. At present, the most efficient solar panels still operate at less than one quarter of their capacity. One wonders just how powerful solar energy can really become. Rest assured, the suppliers named above will spend billions of dollars