Between 2007 and 2011 the solar industry grew at about 70% per year. This growth was extremely attractive for manufacturers. Manufacturers got carried away speculating growth thus continued to increase capacity to meet the growing demand.
But, 2011 capacity surpassed demand by 2011. This is when prices for solar cells began to drop dramatically. As a result, many solar cells manufacturers were not profiting or going bankrupt. An example is Q-Cells of Germany. Hardest hit were the polysilicon suppliers - prices dropped about $80 per kilogram at the beginning of 2011 to $25 per kg at the end.
The industry seemed to do very well just a couple of years ago. However, now it is great for consumers because we can buy particular solar cells very cheap but not so merry for manufactures. Thus, it is important to take advantage of the current low prices of solar PV cells.
Three Solar Companies Worth Eyeing:
First Solar is the leader in thin-film technology using Cadmium Telluride (CdTe). In 2011, its world market share by installed watts was 7%. They hold the world-record holder CdTe PV cell (17.3%) and PV module (14.4%) efficiency. Manufacturing cost leader at under $.75 per watt in 2011. And held 1144 MW module manufacturing global capacity in 2010.
Abound Solar (AVA Solar). Based in Colorado produces thin-film CdTe solar cells. Have a manufacturing capacity of 65 MW. But are now building a new plant to expand to 840 MW capacity. When completed Abound Solar will have the largest solar manufacturing plant in the United States!
SunPower Corporation is a noteworthy company. Even though they do not produce CdTe solar sells they do produce the most efficient solar cells in the world with panel efficiency of 20%. They are crystalline silicon solar cells (1st generation) but the company is the second largest solar company in the US.
First, research state and federal tax credits and incentives available for your area. If you are savvy with numbers then do the analysis. Take the total cost of the PV panels and subtract the tax credit/incentive if applicable. Then figure out the simple-pay back period to make up for that cost with the money you save each year one your utility bill. Even though this is a simple calculation (back of the hand type) one can do a life-cycle cost assessment and real pay-back period with interest rates, etc. It might be worth it to invest!