Joel Makower does a quick review of the growing momentum of solar power on the world market, with high-profile moves being made by Sanyo, Sharp, Kyocera, and Mitsubishi. Then he turns to the U.S. solar market, which is lagging:

Reclaiming leadership in the global solar marketplace will be no mean feat. As recently as 1997, U.S. solar companies controlled 100% of the U.S. market and 40% of the global market, according to SEIA. Today, U.S. firms control only 73% and 14%, respectively. In 2003, following several years of growth, shipments from U.S. solar manufacturers actually decreased by 10%, while shipments from Europe grew by 41% and from Japan by 45%.

It is vitally important for enviros to make the point that solar is not some kind of hippie preoccupation — it’s a major world market that is rapidly reaching a tipping point. The U.S. risks being left behind.

This is an industry that offers the possibility of thousands of jobs — jobs that cannot be offshored, jobs that could potentially revive dying rural areas — in a market that’s only going to grow for the foreseeable future. Yet a combination of corporate clout and political myopia is hobbling our efforts. Tell me again how environmentalists are against economic growth?

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free.