According to the San Jose Mercury News, more homeowners and homebuilders are considering solar power as the government provides more incentives and concerns regarding climate change and energy prices increase.

Noah Kaye of the Solar Energy Industries Association said a 2006 report estimated the market for solar panel installation would expand by 20 percent, but new data from the industry suggests the market is growing at 40 percent. That rate may increase further as more states start offering incentives.

An increasing number of silicon factories also are expected to start production- in the next few years. Last year, the fastest growing company in Silicon Valley was SunPower, a solar-cell manufacturer that saw sales of $236.5 million in 2006, up from $78.6 million in 2005. After spending many years on research, the firm is now “selling everything they make,” said David Edwards, partner and director of research for ThinkEquity Research. He noted that SunPower has signed long-term agreements for silicon, a chief component of solar cells, and that the firm is constructing a second factory in the Philippines.

SunPower also wants to open a panel-assembly plant in the United States and recently finalized its purchase of PowerLight, a designer, installer and operator of large-scale solar power systems. The acquisition lets SunPower completely oversee the solar power process from beginning to end, from manufacturing cells to installing residential and commercial systems. EC

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