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?

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