A Comparison of Solar Panel Manufacturers


It’s hard to believe, but the solar panels that we use today are not that far removed from the solar panels that were invented in the 1960s. Modern solar panels are slightly more efficient, but the basic idea behind the technology is unchanged. Solar panels, or photovoltaic panels, are highly efficient, and contrary to popular belief they can be used in cloudy or foggy areas without a significant drop in efficiency. Today, there are dozens of solar panel manufacturers based all over the world. China and the USA are the biggest manufacturers of solar panels, but Germany, Australia and even Japan have companies that make solar panels. The grid-connected photovoltaic industry is one of the fastest growing energy technology industries in the world. Between 2006 and 2007, there was a 50% increase in the capacity of installed panels, and there are more than 1.5 million homes with rooftop installed solar panels feeding energy into the main electricity grids around the world. That figure does not count other forms of solar chargers or off-grid solar charges.

The Biggest Solar Panel Manufacturers

The biggest solar panel manufacturer in the world is Suntech. This is a Chinese solar panel company. In 2010, Suntech enjoyed a more than 8% market share. By 2011, the number of solar panel manufacturers in the world had massively increased and Suntech had lost some market share, but it is still the market leader, with a 5.8% market share. Suntech has produced more than 13 million solar panels, and supplies companies in more than 80 different countries. The headquarters of Suntech is located in Wuxi, China, and the headquarters building has the biggest integrated solar facade in the world.

The next biggest company is First Solar. This company is the only US based company in the top five, and has 5.7% of the market share. First Solar was the first company in the world to lower its manufacturing cost to the $1 per watt threshold. Today, its cost is a mere 68 cents per watt. First Solar was founded in 1990, and was bought by True North Partners LLC in 1999. The company started trading on the NASDAQ in 2006.

The rest of the top five solar module manufacturers in the top five is made up of Chinese companies. Those companies are Yingly Solar, Trina Solar, and Sungen Solar, who all enjoy a market share of just over four percent. It is clear that China is a world leader when it comes to solar power.

There is one notable Japanese company in the top ten. Sharp, best known for its consumer electronic products, including LCD panels, sits in joint sixth place with a 2.6% market share. Sharp employs more than 55,000 people, and makes a wide range of electronic goods. The company was founded in 1912, and the first product that it produced was a mechanical pencil. Today, it makes solar panels, phones, calculators, and LCD panels for computer monitors.

American company SunPower also has a 2.8% market share. SunPower specializes in crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells, and roof tiles. Total has 66% ownership in SunPower Corporation. One of the most interesting projects that SunPower has been involved in was the production of solar cells for Nasa’s Pathfinder project. The Pathfinder is a high altitude aircraft, and lightweight solar power was essential to its success.

Hanwha Solarone is the only South Korean company in the top-ten list. Technically, the company has Chinese roots, but the Solar R&D Center is based in Daejon, Korea. Hanwha SolarOne was originally a Chinese company known as Solarfun Power Holdings, but it was taken over by the Korean Hanwha Group in 2010, renamed, and then re-listed on the NASDAQ.

Prominent Failures

REC was a Norwegian company with a 1.9% market share in the solar power market. Norway is not a particularly strong force in the world of Solar Power, but REC was one of the top ten companies in the solar power industry until the end of 2012, when the REC company was forced to shut down both of its alternative energy arms. REC had branches working on both solar power and water power, but adverse market conditions and poor cash flow forced both of those companies to close down. Today, the company focuses on making silicon wafers.

Should Consumers Care About Solar Panel Manufacturers

As a consumer, there is little reason to care who makes your solar panels. All of the well-known solar panel manufacturers can make affordable, efficient and hardwearing solar panels. There are some differences in the pricing, depending on how efficient the company’s manufacturing processes are, but the difference in the output of the panels is negligible. The most important thing for a consumer to care about is the type of panel, and where and how it is installed.

There are three main kinds of solar panel. They are polycrystalline, monocrystalline and hybrid panels. Panels are marketed based on the amount of power that they output. This means that if you are sold a 2.5KW panel, it does not matter what kind of panel it is, the output will be the same. The main difference is the size of the panel. Hybrid panels are usually more efficient (and therefore smaller) than polycrystalline panels or monocrystalline panels. This may be important to you if you have limited roof space.

Another thing that some homeowners are concerned about is the appearance of the panels. All black panels are fashionable because they are incredibly attractive, however they can be inefficient. Solar panels are more efficient when they are cool, and black panels tend to absorb a lot of heat.

If you are looking for a solar panel installation for your home, don’t worry too much about choosing a particular solar panel manufacturer, unless you want to support a local manufacturer for ethical reasons. Price, efficiency, size and aesthetics should be your primary concern, and they are things that you can get from any manufacturer no matter where they are from.