Solar energy is increasingly common on rooftops everywhere. Today, more that 900,000 U.S. homes get much of their electricity from the sun rather than from the local utility company. If you’re thinking of greening your roof with solar panels, it’s important to know the different types of solar panel companies, what they do and how they can impact your solar experience. This guide is designed to introduce the types of solar companies, explain the current trends shaping the residential solar industry, and answer common questions about going solar.

Four Types of Solar Panel Companies

Solar Panel Manufacturers

These are the solar companies that make solar cells and solar panels that go on your roof and turn sunshine into electricity. Solar panels are manufactured all over the world, with some companies being heavily involved in research and development and others simply being assemblers.

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Solar
Installers

These are the people who help you get solar panels on your home through construction expertise. These solar companies range from highly marketed national names to small, local contractors that rely primarily on word-of-mouth recommendations for their advertising.

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Solar
Financers

These companies help homeowners find smart ways to afford solar panels. Whether it’s through solar lease, loan or power purchase agreements, there are lots of options to help bring clean energy to your rooftop. From banks that make home-improvement loans for solar systems to vertically integrated solar companies that handle everything from financing to installation, solar financing companies can help make solar happen for you.

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Solar Panel Wholesalers

Solar panels generally go through a complicated distribution process before they get to your roof. From the manufacturer, they usually go to wholesale companies that then distribute them to installation companies that put them on your home.

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Top 50 Solar Energy Companies

Interested in learning more about the top solar energy companies that can help you go solar? Here is the Big List of 50 Solar Companies leading the clean-energy way through manufacturing, financing and installing solar panels:

Company Headquarters Type of Company Founded
Canadian Solar

With operations in 20 countries on six continents, Canadian Solar is one of the world? leading manufacturer of solar panels, storage systems, and provider of solar systems. Over the last 15 years, Canadian has provided more than 14 GW of PV modules to clients around the world.

Jinko Solar

With offices and production facilities in Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, and South America, Jinko provides solar systems and services for residential, commercial and utility projects.

RGS Energy

For 35 years, Real Goods Solar has been selling solar for homes, businesses, schools, universities, government facilities and utilities. RGS Energy operates in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Hawaii.

Solar City

Solar City provides financing options, design services, solar installation and monitoring for residential solar customers. It operates in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.

Soligent Distribution

Soligent is the largest solar-system distributor in the Western Hemisphere, providing solar hardware, system design services and financing in California and New Jersey.

Sunnova

Sunnova offers a variety of sales, lease and PPA plans, with a focus on getting customers solar savings as quickly as possible. Sunnova operates in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Deleware, Maryland, Indiana, Missouri, Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oregon, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam and Saipan.

SunPower

SunPower installs solar systems for homeowners, businesses of all sizes, governmental facilities, schools and universities, and utility production plants. For homeowners, SunPower offers flexible lease, loan and purchase programs.

SunRun

Sunrun, the nation? leading solar lease and solar PPA provider, focuses its expertise on residential solar. Sunrun operates in Oregon, California, Arizona, Colorado, South Carolina, Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Hawaii.

Trina

Trina is one of the leading photovoltaic panel manufacturers in the world, having supplied more than 11 GW of solar production worldwide. Trina Solar manufactures solar panels for residential, commercial and utility-scale systems.

Vivint Solar

Vivint Solar installs and maintains solar panels on homes usually through power purchase agreements with homeowners. It operates in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Utah.

Advanced Green Technologies Fort Lauderdale, FL Installation 2004
Affordable Solar Albuquerque, NM Distributor 1999
American Solar Wholesale Las Vegas, NV Manufacturer/ Distributor 2009
Bland Solar & Air Bakersfield, CA Installation 1985
Complete Solar San Mateo, CA Financing/ Installation 2006
CSUN China Manufacturer 1959
Direct Energy Solar Columbia, MD Financing/ Installation 1958
Dividend Solar San Francisco, CA Financing 2006
First Solar United States Manufacturer 1997
Grape Solar United States Manufacturer 2005
GRID Alternatives Oakland, CA Installation/ Advocacy 1986
Hanwha Q-Cells Germany Manufacturer 1938
Horizon Solar Power Temecula, CA Financing/ Installation 1912
JA Solar China Manufacturer 1988
Kyocera Japan Manufacturer 2008
LG South Korea Manufacturer 2001
Lumos United States Manufacturer 1997
Mosaic Financing Financing 2005
NRG Home Solar Princeton, NJ/ Houston, TX Financing/ Installation 1998
OneRoof Energy Toronto, CA Financing/ Installation 2006
PetersenDean Fremont, CA Financing/ Installation 1999
REC Norway Manufacturer 2001
ReneSola China Manufacturer 2007
Renew Financial United States Financing 1985
Risen Energy China Manufacturer 2011
Samsung South Korea Manufacturer 2014
Sharp Japan Manufacturer 2012
Solar Universe Livermore, CA Financing/ Installation 2015
Solar World United States Manufacturer 2008
Spruce Finance United States Financing 2008
SunEdison United States Manufacturer 2009
Sungage Financial Boston, MA Financing 2008
Sungevity Oakland, CA Financing 2011
Suniva United States Manufacturer 1998
Suntech China Manufacturer 2010
Trinity Solar Wall, NJ Financing/ Installation 2007
Verengo Solar Torrance, CA Financing/ Installation 2014
Vikram Solar India Manufacturer 2004
Yingli Solar China Manufacturer 1978

Trends and Issues: The Future of Solar Companies

As solar spreads to more and more rooftops, utility companies are seeing a threat to their traditional business models. If homeowners can generate their own electricity, that’s electricity they are not paying the utility company to produce. Additionally, if states require utility companies to buy any excess electricity residential solar panels produce (net metering), that’s even more profit lost by the energy companies.

Utility companies are fighting back against this disruption by urging state public utility commissions to hit solar homeowners with grid connection fees and reduced net metering rates, effectively undermining financial incentives to go solar. The solar industry is feeling the pinch in some states due to uncertainty about the future return on investment of residential solar.

While public utility regulators struggle to find ways to fairly include solar energy in the United States’ electricity mix while maintaining an affordable and reliable energy system, new technologies further complicate the future balance of solar companies and utility companies.

While solar panel manufacturers, financers and installers make up the majority of solar companies, the future of rooftop solar success may lie in a new breed of company: developers of affordable residential battery storage. This, combined with intelligent home energy management systems, may be the tipping point for a home solar explosion.

8 Top Solar Battery Storage Companies

The battery storage race is similar to the panel efficiency race in that a lot of solar companies are competing to be on top right now by creating the affordable home battery that will really make ditching the utility company doable night and day. Solar panel companies are packaging panels, complete systems and batteries.

Here are eight top companies competing to give homeowners maximum control of their energy costs:

Probably the most famous of the home battery systems thanks to the Elon Musk and the Tesla automobile, Powerwall uses lithium ion technology to store energy generated during the day with solar panels for use later. Sunrun BrightBox and Solar City both offer solar packages that include the Powerwall.

  • Cost: $3,000
  • Size: 7 kWh
  • Warranty: 10 years

Known primarily for microinverters and monitoring systems, the new Enphase AC battery is expected on the market in late 2016. Sourced through partnership with Japanese battery manufacturer ELIIY Power, the Enphase system

  • Cost: About $800 / kWh for volume buys
  • Size: 1.2 kWh
  • Warranty: 10 years

SimpliPhi Power’s PHI2.6 Smart-Tech Lithium Ferro Phosphate battery works independently with renewable energy sources or in conjunction with the grid.

  • Cost: $3,300
  • Size: 2.6 and 3.4 kWh
  • Warranty: 10 years

With two plug-and-play versions of its lithium-ion battery, The Orison Tower and Orison Panel are designed to charge when electricity costs are lowest and supply power when electricity costs are highest.

  • Cost: 2.2 kWh
  • Size: $1,600 to $2,000
  • Warranty: 10 years

The sonnenBatterie eco home storage system includes a lithium-ion battery from Sony, inverter and control and monitoring technology for the solar homeowner to maximize solar savings. Partnered with Sungevity.

  • Cost: 4-kWh system for about $10,000
  • Size: 4 kWh – 16 kWh (in 2 kWh steps)
  • Warranty: 10 years

With its Energizr-200 energy storage system, JLM Energy combines lithium iron phosphate batteries with its energy ecosystem management technology to take maximum advantage of rooftop solar power generation.

  • Cost: $7,500 to $12,500 including incentives
  • Size: 8.8 kWh
  • Warranty: 10 years

Due out in late 2016, the ElectrIQ home energy storage system bundles its lithium ion battery with an inverter and monitoring software. It is able to charge from the grid or from solar panels.

  • Cost: $16,000
  • Size: 10 kWh
  • Warranty: 10 years

The JuiceBox lithium-ion storage system combines an array of batteries with an inverter and management system designed to mount on the wall and offer cloud-based energy management.

  • Cost: About $10,500 installed
  • Size: 8.6kWh
  • Warranty: 10 years