The US is the world’s largest electricity producer and consumer with a total electricity capacity of around 1 Terawatt.The share of Solar Energy in the US Electricity Production is negligible compared to around 19% for Nuclear Energy and around 2-3% for Wind Energy.However Solar Energy in the US is set to grow at high double digits over the next 2 decades as the Costs of Solar Energy Decline with prices of other Energy Forms set to rise.In some states like Hawaii and California,solar energy prices are already at grid parity with retail electricity prices.Some states like New Jersey,Colorado,Arizona have seen sharp increases in solar energy adoption over the last 2-3 years boosted by state specific government policies and subsidies.With the US Federal 30% Cash Grant on System Costs and falling systems prices for solar systems,the growth in inevitable.The US Solar Market has seen the rise of a number of innovative and fast growing system integration and installers.Some companies have come up with innovative financial solutions to solve the high initial investment hurdles in solar systems through leasing and financing plans.Here are a list of Top US Installers/System Integrators.Note the list will keep expanding in the coming years as the size of the US Solar Energy Market Grows.
The Large Vertically Integrated Solar Panel Installers
1) SunEdison/MEMC – US Polysilicon and Wafer Producer MEMC bought Sunedison which was one of the largest solar installers in 2008.Now MEMC is strongly expanding the system installation business not only in the US but other parts of the world like India,Europe,Korea,Canada and other places.The company recently installed one of the biggest solar plants in the world in Rovigo,Italy
2) Sunpower – Sunpower is a vertically integrated solar energy company known more for its highest efficiency solar panels.The company bought Powerlight a few years ago to enter the solar systems market and has bolstered the business constantly to become a major global installer.Sunpower is present in all 3 segments of the solar sytems business namely a)residential b)commercial and c) utility. It is one of the largest US installers and has recently won a number of large utility contracts for building solar farms.
3) First Solar – First Solar is the largest producer of solar panels in the world using its properietary thin film technology.The company is also one of the biggest utility solar system developer in the world focusing mainly on the North American Market.The company has built and sold the world’s largest solar farms in Sarnia,Ontario.The company has beefed up its solar installation business by buying project development teams and pipelines from Ausra,OptiSolar Turner etc.
4) Sharp/Recurrent Energy – Sharp recently bought Recurrent Energy one of the large independent solar power developers and system integrator in the US.Sharp already had a big presence in the California market where it is now facing increasing competition from the low cost Chinese players like Trina Solar,Yingli etc.
5) REC Solar – The Norwegian based Solar Company REC has started it solar system in the US a year or two ago and has managed to win some contracts..It is targeting all the 3 segments and is present in the major solar states of the US like New Jersey and Californa.It claims to be the largest residential solar installer in California with 17 MW of installations in 2010.
6) Solarworld – Another European company like REC,Solarworld is mainly targeting the utility and big commercial market recently winning a 11.6 MW order from LADWP.The company has a big manufacturing facility in Oregon and has aggressive expansion plans in the US as its domestic German market slows down.
7) Mitsui/Sunwize – Mitsui,the giant Japanese tradings house bought Sunwize in 2006 to enter the solar system market in the US.Note Mitsui is not a big solar panel producer like Sharp,Panasonice and others.The company sells mainly in Oregon and Californai and targets all the 3 segments of the market
The Solar Financing/Leasing Companies
8 ) Sungevity – Sungevity is a California company targeting the residential market through a solar leasing plan.It extensively uses the Internet to design the system and has a JV with US Bank to provide financing to its customers.
9) SolarCity – SolarCity is a full-service solar provider for commercial and residential customers and does solar power system design, financing, installation and monitoring services from a single source.SolarCity is introduced a new solar lease option, called SolarLease.It also has other options like PPA .The company’s footprint extends to Arizona, California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington D.C.
10) SunRun – SunRun is one of the newer solar installation and solar financing companies that target the residential market mainly.The company is present mainly in the Western part of USA operating in 7 states Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.The company uses a PPA model to sell solar systems and has partnered with a number of pure play solar installers
Solar EPC/Installation Companies
11) Akeena/Westinghouse Solar (WEST) – The first US Solar Installer to list on the US Stock Exchange,the company’s operations are based mainly in California.The company also sells solar sytems through retail outlets which was a first.The company also has a unique solar system which reduces solar installation costs called Mandalay.
12) Real Goods Solar (RSOL)- The second US Solar Installer to list on the Stock exchange,Real Goods Solar is present in California and Colorado and it targets the residential and commercial segments of the market
13) Verengo Solar – The company also provides solar financing solutions and is present in the California market.
14) Borrego Solar – The company is similar to Verengo Solar but mainly concentrates on the commercial market.The company signed a deal with Chinese solar panel producer Yingli for procuring solar panels.The company is headquartered in California like most others.
The US Solar EPC Market has a good mix of large vertically integrated solar companies as well as independent solar installers.The leasing and PPA companies have added another dimension to the Solar System Market by making it easier for customer adoption of solar energy.There a a large number of solar system installers in the US and its tough to include most as most of them remain private companies.Solar Installation is a huge growing business and has also attracted a number of shady companies.It pays to understand what is involved in the solar installation since customers are easily fleeced by a myriad of regulations and procedures.
Note Suntech,LG,Posco,Samsung are some of the other major foreign companies looking to build a major solar installation business in the US.Suntech has already won a utility deal and OCI and LDK have bought small US installers to accelerate their penetration of the US Market
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