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First Solar Leads U.S. in Solar Installations

Image credit DRAMOS19, Flickr.

Solar Power World has published its ranking of top U.S. solar contractors. The ranking lists the solar industry’s top 100 companies in order of total megawatts (MW) installed in 2011.

The ranking includes a wide variety of solar installers, with both publicly traded and privately owned companies dispersed throughout. The top 100 companies installed a combined 1.3 gigawatts (GW) of solar power in 2011.

“We would like to congratulate the 100 companies who made our list through their hard work and dedication to the solar industry,” said Frank Andorka, editorial director at Solar Power World.

The United States has enjoyed a landmark year for solar installations, with an estimated 3.2 GW installed by year’s end, according to Solar Energy Industries Association. This figure represents a nearly 70 percent increase from 2011.

Topping Solar Power World‘s list is First Solar, based in Tempe, Ariz. The publicly traded company installed 400 MW in 2011 and has installed nearly 1.2 total MW since its founding in 1999. Despite losing over 2 percent of its stock value this year, First Solar’s value has skyrocketed over the course of the past month, jumping by a whopping 36.8 percent since Nov. 20.

Workers install First Solar’s 21 MW installation in Blythe, Calif. Image credit Jumanji Solar, Flickr.

First Solar has garnered several awards this year in recognition of its commitments to corporate social responsibility and green technology. In December, G.I. Jobs magazine named first solar a military friendly employer, and in March the company was awarded the prestigious Gold Award at the inaugural Malaysia Greentech Awards.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 24 companies on the list, or nearly a quarter of the total, are based in California. California installed 194 MW of solar power in the 3rd quarter of 2012, leading all states, and its projections for renewable energy continue to get brighter. (The Federal focus on renewables in the Southwest is strong, as we’ve reported before).

The leading California solar company in 2011 was San Diego-based Swinerton Renewable Energy. Since its establishment in 1988, Swinerton has installed 103.1 MW of solar systems in both utility and commercial projects. In 2011, the company built 33.5 MW of solar capacity.

In September, Swinerton launched SOLV?, an innovative monitoring platform that provides comprehensive management of utility-scale solar plants to maximize power generation and minimize operating costs.

“The key to running a successful solar utility site is to maximize income and minimize expense for our clients,” said Swinerton’s Joe Brotherton. “To do that, we needed to streamline our service processes and remove expensive and error-prone manual intervention whenever possible.”

The top residential installer of solar power was E Light Wind and Solar, which made headlines last October for installing fourteen new solar carports at four Denver Federal Center buildings. The company, based in Englewood, Colo., installed 71 megawatts in 2011, nearly half its total installations since its establishment in 1998.

“We hope that these companies will serve as an inspiration not only to their peers and solar industry colleagues, but to the general public as well,” added Mr. Andorka. “We believe this inaugural Top 100 will become a benchmark for the industry and further help solidify solar as a leading power source.”

An interactive list of the top 100 companies is available online at solarpowerworldonline.com/2012-top-100-solar-contractors, and a list of the top residential solar installers on CleanTechnica.

Written by Harry Stevens

Harry Stevens is a freelance reporter covering climate change, corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, and sustainable finance. Harry has contributed to several media outlets, including Justmeans, GreenBiz, TriplePundit, and Sustainablog. You can follow Harry on Twitter: @Harry_Stevens

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