The halcyon days of the global solar industry are long gone.

The rapid, incentive-fueled growth the industry enjoyed in 2011 left in its wake a market teaming with cutthroat competitors and a global supply far outweighing demand -- making the solar world a very different industry in 2012.

As the government incentives have begun to dry across Europe and the price of PV panels to plummet, former leaders in the industry -- from technology giants like Siemens (IW 1000/34) to market staples like Centrotherm -- have quietly backed out of the game.

And no one can blame them -- as GTM research notes in a recent report, despite an 18% growth in the global industry in 2012, with panel prices down to impossible lows, the profit margins are too tight for most vertically oriented companies to cope. 

See Also: Manufacturing Industry Technology News & Trends

Stepping back from the global perspective, however, these industry shake-ups have certain local advantages.

"The solar industry as a whole is going through a revolution," says Alan Lee, CEO of California-based ecoSolargy. "The European countries that used to lead the industry are now in decline and new, up-and-coming solar countries are on the rise."

These "new" solar countries, he says, include Japan, India, Australia and, of course, the U.S. -- a status that has added a much-needed boost to ecoSolargy's business base. 

solar power infographic