Many new new players have entered the solar panel manufacturing field over the last several years as it becomes overwhelmingly obvious that alternative sources of energy are needed. Spurred by solar research grants, generous subsidies and incentives from governments worldwide, these new companies are creating a much more competitive market for solar panels. As the market heats up, a few entities have risen to the top of the solar field and are becoming very well known. Who are the top solar panel manufacturers, anyway?

Do an internet search for "solar panels" and you will soon become acquainted with several makers of these products. Perform a Google shopping search, and you will discover many more. Reading reviews of solar panels is another good way to familiarize yourself with the titans of the industry, and checking out financial investment sites and perusing articles about alternative energy stocks is very helpful, as well. One thing that probably will not surprise you is that Chinese firms are quickly moving up in this niche and Indian startups are making headway, too.

Manufacturers of Solar Panels Span the Globe

Although the US and China both have some heavy movers in the solar panel industry, there are many manufacturers in Europe that have been busy making and selling panels for decades. Germany has a well-established solar manufacturing base, with over 100 companies producing solar panels, according to ENF Ltd. Japan has several manufacturers, two of which are Kyocera and Mitsubishi Electric.

The United States has many producers of photovoltaics as well – over 75. One of the top companies is First Solar, who missed a deadline with the federal government to secure funding for a huge solar farm in the California desert. United Solar Ovonic produces primarily thin-film panels, but has been a large contributor to the cause, delivering on 123 MW of solar production power in 2009. Unfortunately, the US solar industry has hit a few bumps slowly. Two promising US companies, Evergreen Solar and SpectraWatt, both filed for bankruptcy in August of 2011, with the graft-fueled failure of Solyndra not far behind. Both Evergreen and Salyndra received millions of dollars from taxpayers, as well.

China's solar panel manufacturing sector has exploded, and they are quickly dominating the world market with cheap, government-subsidized solar products. This market is also experiencing some problems, with the Chinese government closing down one of JinkoSolar's plants for excessive pollution. Suntech and Yingli Green are two other Chinese pv powerhouses.

Producers of Thin-Film Panels

Beside United Solar Ovonic, many other companies manufacture thin-film photovoltaics, which are quickly gaining market share. Bosch, Sharp, Mitsubishi, Suntech and First Solar all produce these flexible panels. Wikipedia notes that US-based First Solar produced 1100 MW worth of panels in 2009, while China's Suntech managed only 123 MW.

Solar roof shingles are a type of thin-film solar product that is becoming more and more popular because of its lower installation costs and sidewalk appealing. United Solar Ovonics is a leader here, with SunPower, Atlantis Energy and Kyocera contributing as well. Dow Chemical's Powerhouse Shingle, however, promises to revolutionize the rooftop solar industry and has been heavily marketing its newest product. Despite the fact that thin-film is less efficient than rigid panels, the much larger area of ​​roof covered makes this system a power-producing force to be reckoned with and may very well make solar power more available to a greater number of consumers.

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