10. JA Solar
With increasing margins, JA Solar has a large number of outstanding shares and a strong ability to turn its equity into net income. According to a recent Paragon Report, the company's stocks are on the upswing as the industry rallies behind 2012.
9. Canadian Solar Inc.
With manufacturing based in China, Canadian Solar ranks as the sixth largest producer in the world by PVinsights and seventh by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The company produced 803 MW of PV panels in 2010 and is working on a plant in Canada with a capacity of 200 MW per year. Despite recent share drops, the company is ramping up production in reaction to a spike in European demand.
High-efficiency crystalline silicon PV cells, roof tiles and panels invented at Stanford University earned SunPower's stronghold on the market as one of the top U.S. solar companies. In April, Total S.A. agreed to buy 60 percent of the company for $1.38 billion and the company has announced plans to compete with retail electric rates by cutting costs in half in 2012.
7. Yingli Green
As one of the world's first fully vertically integrated photovoltaic manufactures, Yingli Green Energy has installed over 2 GW of modules around the globe. The solar energy firm also recently signed an agreement with IBC Solar to supply another 180 MW of multi-crystalline and mono-crystalline PV modules in 2012 as it expands through parts of Europe.
As a leading manufacturer of solar products, ReneSola recently completed a 20 MW solar power plant in China, including grid connection. By capitalizing on proprietary technologies, economies of scale and low-cost production capabilities, the company continues to be a part of China's transformation from a manufacturing hub into an important end-user of solar products.
5. Jinko Solar
Employing over 10,000 professionals across over 165 acres of factories in China, Jinko Solar reached a capacity of 600 MW in ingot, wafer, cell and module production. In its short history, the company has become one of the largest manufacturing bases for solar products, and has established a global R&D center with universities from all over to engage in continuous innovation in the sector.
4. Trina Solar
Trina Solar's abilities in mounting PV modules are among some of the fastest, easiest and least expensive in the marketplace. By offering 10-year product warranties and 25-year linear performance warranties, its panels make for sound investments with proven energy performance from tests conducted by states from around the world.
3. GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT)
Displaying some of the sector's strongest financial health, GTAT has grown its revenue by 1,000 percent in the past five or six years. Despite taking debt in 2010, the company expects to see tremendous growth in equity value, offering a type of growth not often seen in the industry with products and technologies that lower the cost of polysilicon.
2. Suntech Power Co.
Chinese super giant Suntech Power is the world's largest producer of solar panels, pulling in around 1,800 MW of production capacity annually. The company has delivered over 13,000,000 solar panels to thousands of companies in over 80 countries. According to the company, China may add 4 GW or more of panels, which will help curb the 2012 glut of materials on market.
1. First Solar
Living up to its name, Firs Solar has been leading the industry for quite some time. Using cadmium telluride in its manufacturing process has allowed for the production of thin film PV modules at some of the cheapest rates on the market as low as $0.74 per watt. It was the first to reduce manufacturing cost to $1 in 2009, ranked sixth in Fast Company's 2010 list of the world's 50 most innovative companies and first on Forbe's list of America's 25 fastest-growing technology companies in 2011.
In an effort to survive in a Darwinian market, due to a glut of supplies on the market coming from China, the company has made moves to consolidate certain research and development activities to avoid a similar fate of Solyndra. Today, the world's biggest maker of thin-film solar panels is working on a number of large-scale projects in the western U.S., and has installed over 3.8 GW of modules in both rooftop and ground-mount applications worldwide.