Because coal for fuel puts carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, nuclear power is dangerous, and oil and gas resources require drilling and the burning of these fuels adds to pollution, scientists and industrialists are seeking cleaner, sustainable fuels. The interest in solar power, wind power and wave action as sources of energy is growing, and solar is growing faster than the other two. In residential applications of solar energy, people use solar energy to heat their homes and hot water, and to generate excess energy to reduce their bills with the local energy company. But in big business, which companies are marketing technologies to capture solar energy? Which companies are trying to be environmentally responsible, in other words “have gone green,” are utilizing solar energy? The answers may surprise you.
Ranked by percent of marketshare in 2011, Wikipedia lists the top five producers in the world of solar photovoltaic products as Suntech, First Solar, Yingli Solar, Trina Solar, and Sungen Solar. Four of these solar companies are based in China and only First Solar is a US corporation. Also on the top ten list were Sharp, based in China, Sunpower, a US company, Hanwha Solarone from South Korea, Jinko from China, and REC from Norway. In 2012 a list of the top Solar Module Manufacturers Worldwide was prepared by Solar Cell Central and contained the same companies except that Canadian Solar, based in China, was added to the list, whereas Sungen Solar had dropped off of the list. It is immediately evident that China is the largest producer of solar power products and that the United States accounts for only about 20 percent of solar energy products manufactured and sold.
What companies use these solar products? The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) prepared a report on the Top Ten U.S. Commercial Solar Users in 2013. In terms of megawatts (MW) of solar energy produced, Walmart is way ahead of the competition, with Costco, Kohl’s, Apple, and IKEA claiming the first five positions on the list. These leading companies using solar powered technology to reduce their energy costs and be environmentally responsible are followed by Macy’s, Johnson and Johnson, McGraw Hill, Staples, Campbell’s, U.S. Foods, Bed Bath & Beyond, Kaiser Permanente, Walgreen’s and Target as moderate producers of megawatts of solar energy. At the lower end of the scale of companies applying solar powered technology to reduce their energy bills are Safeway, FedEx, Intel, L’Oreal, General Motors, Toys “R” US, White Rose Foods, Toyota, and Dow Jones and Company, Inc. In the future we will see an increase in the number of companies, not just in the United States, but world wide, who are utilizing solar products on their facilities to reclaim energy from the sun and to follow the trend to “go green.”