Clean, green energy is the way of the future, and of course one of the leaders of the renewable energy scene is solar power. Early forms of it were first developed in the 1860s, and it long took a backseat to polluting energy sources like coal, but solar power is now enjoying a renaissance. Solar power’s future is looking undeniably bright, and some investors and businessmen who jumped on the solar bandwagon early are already swimming in pools of money. Here are three lucky men whose billions came courtesy of their efforts in the solar energy industry.
Shi Zhengrong, Suntech Power
Dr. Zhengrong is the wealthiest person in China with a personal net worth of $2.5 billion US dollars, all earned through his solar energy company Suntech Power. He’s been dubbed ‘The Sun King’ and ‘China’s Sunshine Boy’, and was the first person ever to reach billionaire status via solar power. His success is an inspiration to many, but Dr. Zhengrong never expected to make so much money. He told an AP reporter, “I never thought this solar business could take off or become commercially viable. I thought I just needed to concentrate on my research and publish papers to do my job as a scientist.”
Suntech started in 2001 with 20 workers and its workforce has now expanded to 3,500. Its solar panels are used in a broad variety of applications including military, transportation, housing and communications.
Frank Asbeck, SolarWorld
The chairman and founder of Germany’s SolarWorld holds a stake in his highly successful business estimated to be about €1 billion euros, or nearly $1.6 billion US dollars. Asbeck credits the success of SolarWorld partially to the fact that it’s family-owned, saying “In family owned companies decisions are quicker to be made. This is an advantage in business, where a quick decision can generate lots of money for the company. Boards that are discussing too long fail to gain opportunities.”
SolarWorld has delivered a return of more than 10,000% to shareholders in the last five years, and the business is expected to continue growing at a rate of 25% per year.
Xiao Peng, LDK Solar
Xiao Peng’s journey to billionaire status began only three years ago, when he decided that solar energy was the way of the future. Peng’s company, LDK Solar, has had its share of controversy in the past year as it was accused of accounting fraud, though an audit cleared them of any wrongdoing. Investors expect LDK Solar to quickly become the world’s most successful solar company, partially due to the low manufacturing costs it enjoys as a result of operating out of JiangXi, China.
As the solar energy industry continues to expand, we can undoubtedly expect the list of solar billionaires to grow. It’s considered one of the most promising forms of renewable energy, and it’s constantly being improved upon. While the high cost of the materials used to create solar panels have limited its success in the past, engineers are making breakthroughs almost daily as more funds are being poured into the industry’s research efforts.