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Worldwide Top 10 Solar PV Panel Manufacturers

Based on total shipments of megawatts (MW) in 2010, the following companies are the leading makers of solar panels in the world today:

Suntech (China)

With a reported 13 million solar panels delivered to thousands of companies in 80 different countries, Suntech has come a very long way since its inception in 2001 and is today the world’s leading light in delivering solar power to homes and businesses. Valued at $6 billion, Suntech is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and has offices in Australia, Japan, Korea, UAE, Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany, France, Greece, Italy, Spain, North & South America, and of course in Wuxi, China.

First Solar (U.S.)

US firm First Solar was founded in 1999 and uses cadmium telluride as a semiconductor in its solar panels instead of the more common crystalline silicon, which has given the company the ability to make its products more economical. The Arizona-based firm was the first module-maker to lower its manufacturing cost below the $1-per-watt rate, which brought the generation of solar power into the same cost bracket as other conventional forms of power. Forbes recently listed First Solar as number one in its poll of America’s 25 fastest growing technology companies.

Sharp (Japan)

Sharp began developing solar cells way back in 1959, with mass production starting in 1963. Sharp has nearly 60,000 employees in the solar power industry around the world (including Wales) and was the number one producer of solar panels in terms of revenue sales in 2010. Sharp modules are used in various installations, from satellites to lighthouses and industrial set-ups to residential properties. Sharp recently launched the world’s highest efficiency solar panel with a rating of over 32%. In 2010 it was the first manufacturer to achieve 2 gigawatt of cumulative solar power in one year.

Yingli (China)

Founded in 1998, Yingli sells its photovoltaic solar panels all around the world in Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Greece, South Korea, China and the United States. In fact, in 2009, Yingli had cornered 27% of the California market, the largest market in the States. Suntech by contrast had only 10% and rival American solar panel companies held just 16% between them. Yingli produces polysilicon ingots, “wafers”, photovoltaic cells, modules, and PV-integrated systems – but does not participate in massive solar projects as other companies do.

Trina Solar (China)

The third of five Chinese firms in the top ten solar panel manufacturers, Trina was founded in 1997 and is rightly up here with the best of them. Trina is active all around the world and has markets in Germany, Italy, France, USA, and Japan. It is also finding a niche in emerging photovoltaic markets such as Israel, Malaysia, India and Australia. Trina produce both monocrystalline modules and multicrystalline with outputs franging from 170 to 290 watts. In 2010, Trina was expecting to hit the cumulative sales figure of 950 megawatt for the year. Trina entered the New York Stock Exchange in 2006.

Canadian Solar (Canada)

A leading manufacturer of silicon ingots, “wafers”, solar cells, modules, solar power systems, and specialized solar products, Canadian Solar was founded in Ontario in 2001 and has been a NASDAQ-listed company since 2006. The firm operates across three continents, delivering solar modules to customers in 30 countries including China, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, Korea, Australia and the United States, as well as Canada. Canadian Solar achieved sales of $1.5 billion in 2010 and cumulative shipments of 803 megawatts.

Hanwha SolarOne(China)

Ranked seventh, Hanwha SolarOne is actually a partnership between the Korean conglomerate Hanwha with China-based Solarfun Power Holdings – itself a leading manufacturer of solar modules. As Hanwha SolarOne, the company had reached an annual module manufacturing capacity of 900 megawatts in 2010, and cell capacity of 600MW. It has been involved in the development of major worldwide solar power installations in countries such as Germany, Korea, the Czech Republic, Italy, Spain and China. It posted sales of $1.4 billion in 2010 and has over 11,000 employees.

SunPower (U.S.)

SunPower was founded in 1984 by Dr Richard Swanson, who initially looked at developing solar energy technology as a way to tackle the oil crisis in the 1970s having become intrigued by the use of solar cells that were being utilised on space satellites. Fast forward 27 years and SunPower is now one of the biggest developers in the solar energy field. SunPower provides solar energy systems for businesses, government agencies and retailers as well as international residential customers. They have offices in Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Singapore, Korea and Australia. Achievements include providing the solar panels that powered the Honda vehicle that won the Adelaide solar race by a whole day in 1993.

Renewable Energy Corporation (Norway)

REC is a Norwegian photovoltaics company founded in 1996 focusing its manufacturing attention in three areas of production – REC Silicon, REC Solar, and REC Wafer. Following a period of intense expansion (it now has two plants in the US) it is now one of the leading players in the global solar power industry, hitting revenue figures in 2010 of over NOK 13 billion, and employing some 4200 staff worldwide. REC is aiming to be a “key contributor” in shaping the future of the solar energy industry, which includes the continued development and sale of modules.

SolarWorld (Germany)

Founded in 1988, SolarWorld have over 3600 employees producing solar cells, silicon wafers and photovoltaic modules in various countries including Sweden and the US, as well as Bonn in Germany. Its revenue turnover for 2010 was 1.3 billion Euros. It is currently enjoying a boom, posting a 32% increase in annual shipments of megawatts to 185 MW. Its main focus is selling quality modules to the installation and distribution trades and crystalline wafers to the international solar energy industry in general.


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