Solar Energy Industry

Renewable and Sustainable Energy with Solar Power. Let's look at the solar power industry.

Skill Level
20 Min

Chapter 9

Table of Contents

Solar Power Industry

Solar energy is more significant than you may realize. And it has continued to grow. The demand for clean electricity has been rising drastically across both the private and public sectors. People have started to realize what solar power can do, both power production and environmental conservation.

As we analyze the available data, we realize the extraordinary potential of the solar industry and just how far it’s yet to go. There’s a lot to look forward to in the coming decade when it comes to renewable energy. It’s the future of our planet. We can only anticipate a cleaner and greener world if all of us fulfill our part in it. 

solar industry

Is the Solar Energy Industry for Real?

When it comes to the solar energy industry, we might’ve only scratched the surface of the iceberg. There’s an incredible amount of opportunity available that could change the face of our energy fields for good.

In 2011, a comparative study on world energy consumption was conducted by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The study concluded that by 2050, solar array installations would supply about 45% of the energy demand in the world. That’s a lot.

According to the study, solar thermal power has become increasingly popular in industrial applications. Not just that, it has also become a preferable choice for many homeowners in 2020. It makes sense, considering its countless financial and power benefits.

Meanwhile, another recent report showed that there are now more than 81 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity installed, enough to power 15.7 million homes! Figures like these depict the potential of the solar energy industry. As demand continues to increase, solar power and panels production rise.

So, in case previous information didn’t convince you before, solar power is no joke. There’s a lot at stake here, and countries worldwide are taking decisive action to transition to clean energy sources. Let’s explore the progress of some of these countries below.

Is It Creating A Job Market?

According to a recent study from Stalix, for each Megawatt power (MWp) of solar panels installed, 20 manufacturing job-years and 13 installation job-years are created! Most of these jobs are white-collar – highly skilled craft labor – such as assemblers, engineers, installers, and sales representatives. But there are also several indirect jobs created in supporting industries, like producing or optimizing raw materials.

In solar power, there has been the rise of numerous research agencies, associations, and NGOs that promise to promote renewable energy resources.

Meanwhile, statistics reveal that every job in the PV (photovoltaic) industry creates an equal of about 1.8 to 2.8 positions in other economic segments. The study provided evidence of this by citing solar job creation records of Japan and the European Union.

By 2002, 360 MWp of PV power was installed in Japan and created an estimated 9,800 cumulative jobs! European PV employment data estimated a job creation of 28 job-years per MWp or 56,000 job-years per 2000 MWp.

Although we don’t have an exact estimate of solar employment, the impact on global employment rates has been undeniably significant. At this point, you might be wondering what kind of jobs the solar industry exactly creates.

In the solar industry, there are usually professionals required in the following areas:

●        Product Design (such as that of solar panels)

●        Product Manufacturing

●        Installation (of solar plants)

●        Research and Development

●        Operations and Maintenance

●        Sales (retail and wholesale)

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are two primary reasons why sustainable power source technologies like solar offer an economic advantage.

Firstly, they are labor-intensive, meaning they create a relatively larger number of jobs (per dollar of investment) compared to conventional electricity generation. Secondly, they mostly utilize indigenous resources, meaning citizens can keep most of the energy dollars at home.

Meanwhile, the success of solar energy technology in any country depends on developing a highly reliable and skilled workforce. Thus, solar associations and organizations must continue to spread information and awareness regarding it.

Workforce Development

College-level courses on renewable energy are already available and should be encouraged further for people who plan to become part of the industry. Training in this industry is essential, specifically about photovoltaics, optimization of resources, solar water heating, and maintenance of solar panels. As people learn more about energy-efficient solutions, they’re more likely to invest in them.

The success of solar energy technology in any country heavily depends on developing a highly reliable and skilled workforce. Thus, solar associations and organizations must continue to spread information and awareness regarding it.

COVID-19 Effects on the Solar Industry

The solar industry suffered a severe setback after the global COVID pandemic. It resulted in the loss of 114,000 jobs of solar workers (by June 2020). The distributed generation sector – which includes residential and commercial projects – faced the most drastic unemployment and work hindrances impacts.

A US-based solar power business predicted that the distributed generation segment would experience a 31% decline in 2020 compared to 2019.

Even though utility-scale solar has not been as severely impacted, growth forecasts show a significant decline that wasn’t formerly expected. Moreover, the virus has created a lot of uncertainty for solar projects that are still under development. In reality, the entire world has been in a state of panic and uncertainty. As the pandemic diminishes, it seems to be subsiding alongside too.

Despite that, COVID-19 brought on a hard time for all of us. But it has affected the more significant power industry more than we can imagine. However, considering the extraordinary potential of the solar industry, it’s likely to bounce back sooner than later.

There’s still a long way to go when it comes to technological advancements in the solar sector. We can look forward to a future that comes up with better, more energy-efficient, and cleaner solutions to our global power problems. We must strive towards a reality where electricity is no longer a shortage and is available to everyone.

Solar Industry in Major Leagues Countries

In recent years, no other country has invested in clean energy projects as much as China. In 2019, China injected almost 83.4 billion U.S. dollars into pure energy research and development! Solar power is not a light matter, especially when it can completely transform how our world works.

The second and third positions of the highest clean energy investments in 2019 were the United States and Japan. At 55.5 billion and 15.5 billion U.S. dollars, respectively, the two countries have invested loads of money into the industry.

All the involved countries combined have spent 219.2 billion U.S. dollars on alternative energy technologies! Yet, it was the leading three countries responsible for about 71 percent of the total investments. This sheds light on the economic and social dynamics of our world, but it also shows the ever-growing economic potential of the solar industry.

Solar Power Industry in China

China has managed to drop solar prices by 80 percent in a few years! In a market as competitive as that involved in power production, this is a significant achievement. China has pretty much gone from creating a small, rural solar program in the 1990s to becoming the global leader of solar power by 2020. As mentioned before, the country recently injected the largest investment ever recorded, a whopping 83.4 billion dollars, into the solar industry.

Moreover, according to reports, in the first quarter of 2020 alone, China added 3.95 GW of new solar generation capacity (despite the COVID-19 pandemic). So, we know that the country is serious about transitioning to sustainable energy solutions. Moreover, China has been the world’s leading installer of solar photovoltaics (PV) since 2013.

In 2015, China turned into the world’s biggest producer of photovoltaic force, barely outperforming Germany. Then, in 2017, China was the first country to surpass 100 GW of cumulative installed PV capacity. Before 2018 had ended, the country had 174 GW of solar capacity!

As from May 2018, China holds the record for the most large-scale operational solar project: its 1,547-MW venture at Tengger.

China has fundamentally changed the economics of solar globally. While the U.S. seems to be right behind, China still holds most of the world’s solar patents and has been leading the industry for almost three decades now.

At this rate, China won’t just transform the future of energy for its nation but also change the entire global landscape. There’s much to look forward to in the solar industry.

Solar Power in the United States

In the United States, solar power has become more accessible and economical than it has ever been. Since 2008, it has grown about 35 times in power, which equals an estimated 62.5 gigawatts (GW) today. How much is that? That’s enough energy to run about 12 million average-sized American homes!

According to a report, the country installed a new solar power system every two minutes and 30 seconds in 2014! As a result, it earned the fifth global ranking position of installed solar PV capacity.

Meanwhile, since the start of 2014, the average cost of solar panels has dropped by almost 50%.

Markets for solar energy are developing quickly around the nation, and solar power can even be economically compared to traditional power sources in a few states, such as California, Hawaii, and Minnesota.

Moreover, the solar industry has become a proven incubator for work development throughout the country. Solar jobs have expanded by almost 160% since 2010, which is nine times the national average job development rate over the last five years. There are over 242,000 solar workers in the United States, with manufacturing being the second biggest segment in the industry.

As solar energy deployment increases in the U.S., its potential is unbelievable. PV boards on only 0.6% of the country’s total land could produce enough electricity to power the entire country!

Solar Energy Industry in Japan

Japan is the fourth largest consumer of electric power on the planet. The primary energy resources utilized in Japan are oil and coal, which adds up to over 60% of total energy usage in Japan.

Japan has limited resources. Generally, 80% of its oil is imported from OPEC, particularly, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iran. Moreover, most of the coal originates from Australia and the United States.

Utilizing large quantities of oil and coal for solar power impacts the earth adversely. Petroleum derivatives often produce carbon dioxide, which leads to a global temperature increase. In 1999, Japan accounted for carbon dioxide totaling 5% of global outflows!

Therefore, in recent years, people have understandably become more concerned about the earth’s environmental conditions. Sustainable power sources are viewed as one of the best solutions for less ecological contamination. Renewable energy, like solar power, is environment-friendly because it doesn’t emit harmful substances.

So, to deal with the environmental problem and reduce the emittance of CO2, Japan launched a project that advances sustainable energy use. Among alternative energy options, solar energy was considered as one of the most promising.

That’s how Japan became the quickest developing country to advance PV and now drives the Photovoltaic world market. If you’re confused, solar energy is used as Photovoltaic (PV) for electricity and solar thermal for heating. 45% of photovoltaic cells on the planet are made in Japan.

The advantages of utilizing PV include its high reliability and low operation or developmental costs. And of course, the benefits to the environment can’t be excluded.

Moreover, Japan encourages consumers to sell excess power produced during the day back to their solar companies, which reduces energy wastage. To promote solar power in households, the Japanese government also offers endowments for installation costs. The floating solar arrays in Japan are also proving a great innovation. 

Other Countries Transitioning to Solar Power

Apart from the three “major” league nations mentioned above, other nations are also transitioning to renewable energy options.

Sweden Solar Power Industry

 The country significantly increased its investment in solar and wind power to accomplish the goal of clean energy. It also invested in energy storage, smart grids, and clean transport.

In 2015, Sweden promised its people to follow through on an ambitious goal: to eliminate fossil fuels from power production by 2040 within its borders. 

Germany Solar Power Industry

It’s no news that Germany is already a world leader when it comes to sustainable energy. But in 2018, it generated enough electricity to power every residential unit in the country for a year! The government also set an ambitious mission of transitioning its power sources to 65% renewable options by 2030.

Considering that Germany has over 80 million people and usually doesn’t have the most favorable weather conditions, the country seems confident in its ability to harness the full potential of solar energy. 

Solar Energy Industry in Nicaragua

Nicaragua generated a significant amount of its electricity from renewables in 2017. In 2012, Nicaragua managed to invest the fifth-highest percentage worldwide of its total GDP in developing sustainable energy. The country is aiming for 90% renewable by 2020. It seeks to generate most of its electricity from wind, solar, and geothermal sources.

Solar Industry in Costa Rica

Costa Rica took advantage of its unique geographical location and produced about 95% of its electricity from renewable energy sources (in the last four years)! These sources included hydro, geothermal, solar, and wind. Moreover, Costa Rica has a mission to become almost entirely carbon-neutral by 2021.

Solar Energy in Uruguay

After ten years of focused effort, people consider Uruguay to be 100% driven by renewable energy. The country has heavily invested in solar and wind power since 2012.

Denmark Solar Industry

Denmark produces over half of its electric power comes from solar and wind. In 2017, the country made a new world record after generating 43% of its electricity from the wind! That’s the highest level of wind power produced worldwide. The country further aspires to become 100% fossil-fuel-free by 2050.

Solar Energy in Morocco

Morocco has favorable weather conditions, with an ample amount of sunlight. It made sense when the country decided to create one of the most ambitious solar power plants to date. According to estimates, the mega-project will generate half of the country’s electricity by 2020! The plant will also have wind and hydro sources to supplement it.

Organizations Promoting Solar Energy

In recent years, several organizations and associations have risen to promote solar energy. These organizations keep us updated on the news regarding the solar industry and even organize solar conferences.

Most of the current knowledge we have on solar projects comes from these organizations. They conduct independent research studies, but they also stay actively and consistently involved in the industry.

Hence, solar installers often rely on them for the latest, accurate information. They need to know what’s happening so that they can better take care of their solar ventures. Besides, it’s essential to stay informed and up-to-date in technology enterprises like mass-scale power production.

But who are these organizations? You might be wondering what organizations and associations you should know about and possibly even become a member of.

There are a lot of options to choose from. We’ve rounded up some of the best of the lot to help get you started.

All the solar organizations listed below are well-known and well-respected in the solar industry. Even though most of them are based in the U.S., they do help on a global scale. Their primary objective is to promote clean, renewable energy for all countries.

The Solar Foundation

First up on our list is the Solar Foundation. Founded in 1977 and relaunched in 2010, the Solar Foundation is a nonprofit, impartial organization that aspires to advance the use of solar power globally. They work to achieve that mission through their educational outreach, product research, and leadership skills. Recently, the organization merged its operations with Interstate Renewable Energy Council USA (IREC).

They also publish the annual National Solar Jobs Census – the first and most reliable resource for solar job research. The Solar Jobs Census collects information about solar jobs all over the U.S. and delivers comprehensive data on the country’s solar workforce. On that same note, the association also publishes the Solar Industry Diversity Study, which provides in-depth data on diversity and inclusion in the solar workforce.

The Solar Foundation aims to make solar jobs accessible to all people. Hence, they also lead a workforce development program called the Solar Training Network. The program connects solar job seekers, employers, and solar training providers. Its purpose is to bridge the gap between supply and demand in the solar power job market.

Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)

Founded in 1974, the Solar Energy Industries Association (or SEIA in short) is the national solar trade association in the United States. Their mission is to build a robust solar industry in America through advocacy. Without a doubt, they’ve been doing their part to achieve that goal.

Through the years, SEIA has continuously worked to promote, build, and implement solar energy in the country. As of now, the solar organization is working with over 1000 member companies. Together, they create jobs and encourage diversity, promote cost-competitive solar energy in America, and bring awareness to the people regarding the benefits of solar energy.

International Solar Energy Society (ISES)

Solar Energy Society (ISES) is a nonprofit UN-accredited membership NGO based in Germany. The organization was founded in 1954. Their primary goal is to become the most trusted global advisor on renewable energy sources.

ISES updates and connects its diverse membership of academics, researchers, practitioners, professionals, decision-makers, businesses, and advocacies in more than a hundred countries to fulfill that objective.

Moreover, they also promote solar research studies and development and offer authoritative advice on issues concerning the solar industry worldwide. They bring awareness to the public regarding clean energy resources and advocate for a sustainable future.

American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE)

Next up, we have the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE). A national nonprofit organization, the ACORE aims to bring together finance, policy, and technology to help us transition faster towards a renewable energy economy. Founded in 2001, the organization convenes leaders across communities and facilitates connections among people in the solar industry to help them come together and build a solar future.

Apart from that, they also educate senior authorities on essential policies and conduct research and analysis on pressing problems related to the solar industry.

Solar Energy International (SEI)

Founded in 1991, Solar Energy International (known as SEI) is a nonprofit educational organization. SEI’s primary objective is to make industry-leading technical training programs accessible to communities and businesses on a global level.

SEI offers a training program, called the Renewable Energy Education Program (REEP), that comprises hands-on workshops and online courses in solar PV, micro-hydro, and solar hot water. Moreover, they also collaborate with grassroots and development organizations in America, Africa, Micronesia, and the Caribbean for solar solutions.

Solar Powering America

Solar Powering America was created in 2013 by the government, mainly to help the President’s Climate Action Plan. Their objective for 2012 to 2020 was to double the amount of renewable energy deployment and install 100 megawatts of solar on federally assisted housing.

Solar Powering America has made information and projects on solar power readily accessible to communities, businesses, and organizations. They want people to learn about solar energy and commit to choosing it for their homes or enterprises. The agency also acts as a central hub where various organizations involved in this industry can connect, develop new solutions, and track the progress in deploying solar power.

Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA)

Another nonprofit organization invested in the solar industry is the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA). It was founded successfully in 1992 when research on solar energy was still new and limited. Their mission is to make the world carbon-free by 2050. SEPA believes that this is entirely possible with the right steps to action. Prioritizing education, research, and collaboration, SEPA aims to facilitate the electric power industry’s transition to a future of renewable energy.

Currently, SEPA has over 1,000 members and more than 700 utilities, all of which always help them make smart and energy-efficient choices.

American Solar Energy Society (ASES)

The American Solar Energy Society (ASES) is a nonprofit organization established in 1954 to promote sustainable living and clean energy. It’s also what makes up the U.S. section of the International Solar Energy (ISES). Like its mother organization, ASES shares information, events, and resources that can help businesses and communities make progress with solar energy projects.

Global Solar Council

Founded in 2015, the Global Solar Council is an international nonprofit association of the national, regional, and international associations in solar energy and the world’s leading corporations. Their primary aim is to enable solar energy. To contribute, they offer various programs on subjects ranging from regulatory policy, trade policy, new market opening, to jobs and skills training.

International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)

Founded in 2009, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is an intergovernmental organization that encourages the widespread deployment and sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy, like solar, wind, hydropower, bioenergy, and geothermal. With this, they intend to assist countries in their transition to a cleaner energy future. Moreover, they also serve as the central platform for international cooperation and a reliable source of technology, policy, resource, and financial information on renewable energy.

To achieve its objectives, IRENA provides several different products and services like:

  • Yearly reviews of available renewable energy jobs

  • The Global Atlas, which is a map of energy resource potential by source and location

  • Renewable energy cost studies, capacity statistics, benefits studies, and technology briefs

  • Renewable Readiness Assessments

  • REmap, which is a roadmap that aims to double the use of renewable energy globally by 2030

  • Facilitation of local renewable energy development

  • Clean energy project development tools include the Project Navigator, the Sustainable Energy Marketplace, and the IRENA/ADFD Project Facility.

World Solar Thermal Electricity Association (STELAWorld)

Finally, we have the World Solar Thermal Electricity Association. The Belgium-based organization was created in 2011 to work with international agencies like IRENA, UNFCCC, IEA, UN Development Program, the World Bank, etc. It was formed to help policymakers and investors of the solar industry easily access information on solar power development.

With the help of its member bodies, the association promotes data and information related to solar electricity generation. The data is usually collected from various research agencies, the industry, academic institutions, and governments worldwide.

How Can We Contribute to A Cleaner Future?

As you can see from the information above, solar organizations – both local and international – tirelessly dedicate their resources, effort, and time to creating clean energy solutions for the whole world. They ensure that these solutions are also feasible and will last a long time.

To inform and influence people to choose clean energy, they create various research studies, programs, and solar conferences. It’s essential to support these organizations for all the excellent work they do.

So, how can you contribute?

It’s simple. Become a member!

The point is, it’s essential to contribute to helping the environment and shift to renewable energy solutions if we have any intentions of building a better future for our children.

Besides, solar professionals should be particularly aware of these associations and aim to contribute to the cause of the industry. By following these associations and becoming a member, you won’t just help the fight for a cleaner environment but also broaden your knowledge on the subject. And that’s what matters the most.

Research in the Solar Industry

In the last decade, there has been an increase in the solar power industry’s quantity and quality of research. We’re now aware of the precise statistics of power consumption globally and the estimated positive impact of shifting to solar energy.

In 2018, the global solar power industry was worth a total of 52.5 billion dollars. According to predictions, it will reach about $223 billion by the year 2026.

The rapid expansion of the solar power industry results from the increasing carbon footprint in our environment and the need to come up with alternative energy solutions. Governments worldwide have started to offer incentives and tax rebates to convince people to install solar panels.

If we were to classify solar projects according to technology, there would be two types: photovoltaic and concentrated solar power systems. Then, based on the application, we can classify solar uses into residential, commercial, and industrial. Finally, we can organize solar power into electricity generation, lighting, heating, and charging considering the purpose.

First-generation cells like monocrystalline and polycrystalline are increasingly used in photovoltaic applications. Due to high residential applications, these silicon cells have a high demand. But cadmium telluride and amorphous silicon (solar) cells have also led to significant growth potential because of their low cost.

Experts predict that even the third-generation cell segment will show a high growth rate with advanced research in the solar industry. This will increase the efficiency of solar panels. Therefore, the solar industry must continue to invest in high-standard research.

Moreover, in architecture and residential enterprises, there has been a shift towards solar energy. It has created a lot of potential for the future of solar power.

However, the geographical footprint continues to impact the solar energy market. Only research and development can increase the adoption of solar power and convince more people to transition to clean energy.

Emerging economies like China and Japan have been paying a lot of attention to solar technologies. This is a result of subsidies and tariffs that the government offers or mergers with local solar companies.

Meanwhile, North America and Europe heavily rely on research to optimize their solar projects for the future. And as a result of increased usage of solar for electricity, agriculture, and architecture, the Middle East and Africa have also become essential players in the market.


When it comes to the solar industry, we have only just gotten started. Even if we disregard what solar-powered electricity can do for our environment and ecosystem, we have to recognize the unbelievable influence it has had over the global economy. The solar industry has changed our economic environment immensely.

If you look at countries like China, Japan, and Sweden, they have made massive strides with solar power. This has led to a significant increase in employment and foreign investments.

The demand for sustainable and renewable energy has been continually rising since the past decade. As we look at the variables, we begin to realize just how much potential solar power has. There’s a lot to look forward to in the coming decade regarding the solar industry. We can anticipate a greener environment for our planet, but only as long as we all fulfill our role in it.

Next, learn how solar energy affects the environment.