In this article we are going to list the 10 biggest solar companies in the world. Click to skip ahead and jump to the 5 biggest solar companies in the world. Look, we all know the issue with power generation and electricity generation not just over the past few decades but over the past few centuries as well, ever since the Industrial Age began.
Throughout history and since the inception of the Industrial Age, we have been using up renewable energy resources and burning them to generate energy, and in turn manufacture electricity, which is one of the most integral necessities in the modern world. However, firstly, these resources are present deep beneath the earth and in limited quantity, which means we cannot rely on them forever or even more than a century or two at most, even though these estimates are consistently revised. This means that we've needed substitutes for these commodities to ensure uninterrupted supply for the foreseeable future and even beyond. Second, the burning of fossil fuels is perhaps one of the most dangerous practices that we've carried on for so long, and which has significantly harmed the planet we live on. The burning of fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, where it does great damage and is one of the biggest reasons behind global warming, which has now been given the more palatable name of climate change.
If you look around you, you're more than likely to be among the vast majority of people who are now seeing the first major effects of climate change, which has resulted in extreme summers which break record after record, while winters seem to be more harsh as well. Erratic weather patterns have led to storms and major weather events occurring in greater frequency as well as greater severity. This is another reason why we've needed an alternate to fossil fuels, which we have found.
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Renewable resources refers to resources which are naturally replenished and hence, plentiful and in no danger of running out. Replacing non-renewable resources with renewable resources not only takes care of the problem of future supply, but also of climate change as using renewable resources to generate power is much more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels. Of the several renewable resources available, sunlight, water, geothermal and wind sources have dominated the power scene and solar companies have started a rise to the top.
In some of the more developed economies in the world, especially those in Western Europe and North America, people have attained a sufficient standard of living to now focus on and improve some of the more long term problems such as climate change. This is why these companies have started to enact rules and regulations which are designed to discourage burning fossil fuels and rather encourage the establishment of companies which use renewable resources to generate electricity. Hence, more and more renewable resources companies are being incorporated and growing significantly year on year. While this article will focus on solar companies, you are also welcome to take a look at the 15 biggest wind energy companies in the world.
2019 was a huge year for the solar industry, or what is known as the solar photovoltaics market, where 120 gigawatts (GW) were installed during the year, which was an increase of 15% as compared to the previous year. Unsurprisingly, China was the biggest market in the world for solar energy though the United States was not far behind in second place. This is in line with the wind energy industry as well, where the biggest markets are by far China and the United States. In 2019, 30 GW were installed in China. Following the two giants are India and then Japan. Just the 5 biggest countries in the industry managed to account for close to 60% of the total solar PV capacity which was installed during 2019. The best thing about solar power is that it is actually cheaper than fossil fuels in many parts of the world, which is why there were at least 20 countries across the globe who added at least 1 GW, which shows the allure of the industry in small and mid-sized markets.
Nowadays, solar auctions are the way to go for procuring large scale projects globally, and hence, are spreading across many countries. Of the global solar PV installed in 2019, China, the United States, Japan and India accounted for almost 70%. This means that while companies in these countries were involved in local installations, they were also responsible for most of the GW installation across the world.
Of course, there is always a caveat nowadays whenever talking about any industry and its potential growth and that caveat pertains to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has been going on for a year and unless the approved vaccines are successful, shows no signs of abating at all. In 2020, the expected decrease in demand for solar energy is around 20-25%, though proper statistics in this regard will only be obtained later on in 2021 when everyone starts to properly analyze the industry in 2020. The good thing here is, the solar industry was able to persevere through the pandemic much better than other energy companies and with declining costs in the industry, is set to attract more investment and higher growth from 2021 onwards.
To consider the biggest solar companies in the world, we have only considered companies which have operations in more than one country, so as to capture the globality of the industry, which is why NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE) missed out. This list consists of a diverse group of companies, many of who are growing globally while others already have significant operations in many different countries across the world. The list includes renewable energy arms of major conglomerates while also including standalone solar energy companies. Approximately 33 GW of solar operations across the world are controlled by the 10 biggest mining companies in the world. Meanwhile, the biggest developers of solar energy are also expanding to more mature economies such as the United States, in guarantee of lower risk and higher potential returns, while emerging markets are seen as potentially the most lucrative markets due to the populations and size as well as energy shortages that many countries within this umbrella face. Our ranking is based on the total capacity of the large scale solar energy developers, based on their current total capacity. All of the data has been taken from a report by Mercom Capital Group. So let's take a look at the names of the companies which are at the top of their solar game, starting with number 10:
Total solar capacity of the company in 2019 (in MW): 3,493
Engie is a French company and one of the largest energy companies in the world, and since 2014, has begun a strategic shift by investing majorly in renewable energy resources and moving away from fossil fuel exploration.
9. Lightsource BP (NYSE:BP)
Total solar capacity of the company in 2019 (in MW): 3,696
The second largest European solar company is Lightsource BP, which was acquired by BP just a couple of years ago in 2018. It has offices across Europe and the US as well as India, while it maintains its headquarters in London.
Total solar capacity of the company in 2019 (in MW): 3,699
Invenergy is an American company with operations in Asia, Europe and the Americas, with wind, solar and natural gas facilities in 164 projects of around 25 GW. It has begun commercial operations on its Wilkinson Solar Energy Center which has a capacity of 74 MW.
7. AES (NYSE:AES)
Total solar capacity of the company in 2019 (in MW): 3,937
One of the biggest solar companies in the world is AES, which has a very diverse portfolio of both thermal generation and renewable energy, though it is now mostly pivoting towards the latter, and hence, earning a place on our list.
6. First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR)
Total solar capacity of the company in 2019 (in MW): 5,195
The second biggest American solar company is involved in the manufacture of solar panels as well as providing PV power plants and other services. The company was established 21 years ago in 1999 and in 2009 became the first company in the world to reduce costs to $1 per watt. It is counted among the most innovative and fastest growing technology companies with over $3.5 billion of revenue annually.
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Disclosure: No position. 10 biggest solar companies in the world is originally published at Insider Monkey.