"There are more than 5,000 solar companies in the U.S.," says SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive. "Many of these companies will go out of business." (Paging Solyndra!) But last year, SolarCity expanded to the East Coast and added 12,000 projects, all without a dollar of government funding. The key: Rather than just make panels, it is a full-service operation—designing, installing, financing, and maintaining every system. That's how to ease new customers into an unfamiliar technology. Its 2011 wins:
The California-based company added East Coast service in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. It now serves 11 states across the country.
SolarCity persuaded Citi, Google, U.S. Bancorp, and others to invest in residential solar-energy installation.
In September, Walmart and SolarCity announced plans to deck out 60 more stores with solar, bringing solar energy to 75% of Walmart's California locations.
It launched SolarStrong, a five-year, $1 billion plan for outfitting up to 120,000 U.S. military housing units with rooftop solar.
Photograph by Flickr user Mr. Omega