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The solar energy market is a branch of the larger energy market which involves the production, sale, and trade of energy from solar sources. Activity on the solar energy market includes everything from companies which install photovoltaic systems on private homes to provide them with a source of solar power to multinational power companies committed to meeting part of their energy needs with solar power. Interest in this branch of the energy market spiked in the early 21st century, when a number of nations around the world became concerned about conventional energy sources like oil and coal and started exploring alternative energy.
Developing new sources of energy is a costly proposition, and much of the activity in the solar energy market in the early years consisted of investment, with companies investing in the hopes that eventually they would see returns. Advocates for solar energy also pushed for early adoption of solar technology in both the public and the private sector, to increase demand for solar energy generation in the hopes that this would drive the costs of solar technology down.
Solar energy can be derived from photovoltaic panels, which convert the sun's light into usable electricity, and also from solar thermal systems, which use the warmth of the sun to heat water. Solar thermal heating of water for bathing, cooking, and other tasks has been practiced for thousands of years in many cultures, and it proceeds much the same way in the modern era as it did thousands of years ago. Both systems can be installed on structures to provide sources of energy which allow the structure to be independent from the grid, and photovoltaic technology could potentially be used to generate large amounts of energy which could feed into the grid for the commercial energy industry.
Participants in the solar energy market include utilities, manufacturers of equipment used in the generation and storage of solar energy, contractors, private research firms, governments, and individuals. A number of governments encouraged the growth of the solar energy market by providing financial incentives for individuals and companies using solar energy. For example, homeowners in the United States could access rebates when they installed solar panels on their homes.
Solar energy production was recognized as a potential for big business in the early 21st century, as companies worked on increasing the efficiency of solar energy generation, storage, and transmission. Solar energy jobs were also of interest to many nations with green collar jobs initiative, because with the solar energy market comes an extensive need for infrastructure support, including utility workers, solar energy consultants, and manufacturing workers.