Of 100 professionals polled for the 2009 US Solar Industry Monitor, 93% forecast growth for their US business in 2010 and 95% forecast growth in 2011. Many expect to register growth in excess of 25% next year and more than half expect the same increase in 2011.

The opinion poll is conducted by Droege & Comp, an international management consultancy, and Gibbs & Soell, an independent global public relations firm. The results were released before the start of in Solar Power International 2009 in California, where 25,000 solar industry professionals are expected to attend.

“The US solar industry is positioning itself for a sales upswing in 2010 that could pave the way for aggressive expansion in the years beyond,” explains Sebastian Goeres of Droege. “Competition is fierce and players compete mainly via cost. We see the need for leading companies to improve their operational costs and to put more emphasis on their strategic plans.”

Most respondents (65%) feel the recession has not had a crushing impact on the US solar industry, but identify the main obstacles to growth as the lack of financing (82%), little support from utilities (63%), lack of customer knowledge (61%) and insufficient level of incentives (59%). To create demand from higher awareness and differentiation, 83% of respondents say sales and marketing communications will be accelerated.

“Solar businesses regard their sales and marketing efforts as critical to revving up the US growth engine,” adds Brian Hall of Gibbs & Soell. “However, respondents said they favour more indirect methods to gain visibility, including search engine optimisation that unlocks value from existing content, as well as media coverage earned from outreach to professional journalists and industry bloggers. A next step is to strategically integrate digital media tools such as corporate blogs and social networking into the mix, which can help companies establish clear voices and engage in more interactive conversations with their audiences.”

In anticipation of strong demand and harsh competition in the solar electric market over the next two years, 60% of respondents will boost their supply, with half intending to increase their assembly and production, while 39% will expand market share through joint ventures, mergers or acquisitions.

“This is clearly a pivotal time for solar companies to gather together at Solar Power International,” says Julia Hamm of Solar Electric Power Association. “Record participation in this year’s show and the overwhelmingly positive outlook indicated by the 2009 US Solar Industry Monitor illustrate the industry’s strong appetite for ideas and partners that can help stimulate immediate growth.”