Over the last ten years, the solar industry has grown at an almost unbelievable pace. From 2005 to 2016, total solar panel production increased from a paltry 1.4 gigawatts to 70 GW – an increase of 4,900%! (See NREL report below for stats.) Today, let’s take a look at the companies that make this happen – the world’s ten biggest solar panel manufacturers.
In 2016, these companies produced about half of that 70 GW total, with each shipping between 2.2 and 5 GW of solar panels. That’s enough solar for each company to power between 385,000 and 1 million average-sized rooftop installations!
For the most part, all the manufacturers produce ‘standard’ solar panels for both residential and commercial installations (panels for commercial systems are larger), though some also offer special products like frameless panels, panels with premium components, batteries, and mounting systems as well.
If you’ve ever seen a solar panel (and hopefully you have!), chances are it was a crystalline silicon solar panel – the dominant type of solar cell out there. If you’ve done a bit more research on panels, you might be aware that there are actually two types of crystalline silicon panels: polycrystalline and monocrystalline.
You might’ve heard that one produces more energy or is more efficient or another is more cost-effective. What’s the real difference between monocrystalline solar panels vs polycrystalline solar panels? And does it even matter?
The difference between the two lies in the manufacture and makeup of their underlying material: silicon. Let’s take a look to see what all this means and ultimately help you decide which type to install.Continue reading
On first glance, solar panels are pretty simple pieces of technology. Sunlight hits them and they produce electricity, then flows out of a wire to whatever you want to power. Done. There’s no motors and no moving parts (electrons are the only moving object in a solar panel). However, when you take a closer look at a solar panel diagram, you’ll see they are actually incredibly complex.
Today, let’s break down what exactly composes a solar panel so that we can learn a little more about this wonder of the modern world.Continue reading
The solar industry is young and enthusiastic. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of companies and universities actively researching, developing, and testing new solar technology and new products every day. Some are tweaking our existing silicon solar panels to make them more attractive or more efficient. Others are devising entirely new ways to produce electricity with sunlight.
When you think about it, all this innovation makes sense. We often naturally group the solar industry with companies that provide electricity (i.e. utilities) but really solar is a technology, not a service. Instead, we should be boxing solar companies together with other technology companies, like Apple, Samsung, LG, and Panasonic. (Actually, LG and Panasonic make solar panels!)
And, as with any company in the technology industry, solar manufacturers and researchers are always trying to create the next great product that is cheaper, more beautiful, easier to install, or produces more energy.Continue reading
You might have heard talk that solar windows are going to be the next big thing in solar. I mean, how cool would it be to look out your window and know that they’re producing electricity while you do it? While there are one or two companies actually manufacturing solar windows, many questions remain: are they really a viable option? Can you install them on your home? How much do solar windows cost?
If you’re ready to hop on this bandwagon, don’t jump quite yet. Currently, solar windows are still in the nascent stages. Only a handful of companies are actually manufacturing them and, while they are certainly super-cool, they’re still miles away from being commercially viable.Continue reading
Perovskite solar cells – funny name, serious tech. They’re kind of the ‘it’ thing in solar technology right now. Think N’Sync back in 1998 when they all had those terrible haircuts or 1980s Guns N Roses when they all had… those terrible haircuts.
Not to be too dramatic, but perovskite cells really could bring a huge change to the solar industry, and by extension our entire electricity infrastructure, forever. Despite being quite a new technology, they’re naturally cheap and easy to make, and are already as efficient as our ubiquitous crystalline silicon panels (the ones on our rooftops).
Unlike crystalline silicon panels, however, perovskite solar cells can be attached to both rigid and bendable surfaces, making them more versatile than the hard, heavy panels commonly used today.Continue reading
Most of us picture a fixed rooftop installation when we think of solar panels – but did you know that there are solar panels that don’t sit still as they soak up the sun? Some photovoltaic systems are connected to something called a solar tracker, which powers ground-mounted solar panels to slowly change position so that they continuously face the sun.
Solar trackers can use a number of methods and mechanics to function, but all of them are meant to do one thing: increase energy output by moving solar panels so that they receive as much direct sunlight as possible. Some manufacturers boast that their trackers can increase energy production as much as a 45% over a fixed roof system.Continue reading
Enphase is the preeminent manufacturer of microinverters in the US. Their products are unique, high-quality, and fill a niche in the solar industry. However, the company has been troubled by quarterly net losses and falling stock prices since 2015. What are real customers saying about the products?Continue reading
Sunpower has been around for over 30 years – a veritable dinosaur by solar industry standards. But they’re a dinosaur in a good way, as Sunpower solar panels are some of the best in the industry, thanks to the company’s expertise, know-how, and innovation.
Unfortunately, even with all the accolades Sunpower receives for its solar panels, and despite its high revenues, the actual company continues to suffer from debt, layoffs, and a recent factory closure.
What makes Sunpower’s solar panels so great, and what does the future hold for the company? Let’s delve into all this now.Continue reading
By now you’ve probably heard about Tesla’s solar roof tiles – the panels camouflaged to look just like standard roofing shingles, allowing for a subtle, inconspicuous way for homeowners to go solar.
But now Tesla has also designed low profile solar panels for those of us who can’t – or don’t want to – tear off our roof and put up another one just to go solar. These new panels, made in collaboration with Panasonic, offer a subtle look that’s faster and easier to install than old school panels. Continue reading