Solar Turbines – A Top I&M Market Performer

by Carter Palmer, Power Systems Specialist, Forecast International.

From its beginnings in pre-Depression America, Solar Turbines –  a Caterpillar company based in San Diego – has grown to command a top spot in the gas and steam turbines market.  Whether for industrial or marine applications, gas and steam turbines occupy a vast market, but just four manufacturers will account for more than 75 percent of the I&M market in the coming fifteen year period (2016-2030). The situation is different in terms of unit production –  where turbine size is a major factor in the number of units produced.

One company, though, seems to be doing well when both value and unit production are taken into account – Solar Turbines.

The company traces its roots back to the 1927 founding of the Prudden-San Diego Airplane Company. The Solar Aircraft Company, as it was renamed two years later, was hit hard by the Depression and made a decision to pivot from building aircraft to manufacturing aircraft parts, especially high-temperature-tolerant materiel. As a result, Solar produced more than 300,000 exhaust manifolds during the Second World War.

Manufacturing high-temperature-tolerant parts for the aircraft industry led Solar naturally into the emerging world of gas turbine engines. Originally manufacturing components for aviation turbines, Solar later took on development of turbines for the U.S. Navy.[i] Smaller turbines grew into bigger models and today Solar’s lines comprise six models and numerous variants: the Saturn, Centaur, Taurus, Mars, Titan, and the recuperated gas turbine – the Mercury.

With the inclusion of individual variants, Solar’s product line consists of ten different generator sets. Whether for basic power generation or further applications in the oil and gas industry, Solar’s wide range of products makes its turbines a popular choice.

During the coming decade and a half (2016-2030), Forecast International expects Solar Turbines, in terms of value, to stake out 6.7 percent of the total worldwide industrial & marine turbine market. That market share places the California-based business at number four among manufacturers. In terms of unit production, Solar Turbines is first – with a 22.4 percent market share.

Total unit production in 2016 is in the neighborhood of 260 units. The figure is slated to rise to approximately 320 units by 2021 and remain at that annual level (+/- 10 units) out to 2030.

With over 15,000 units already sold in over 100 countries, Solar Turbines has secured a position as a world leader in the I&M market. [ii]

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[i] “About Us, History,” Solar Turbines, accessed November 22, 2016,

[ii] “About Us,” Solar Turbines, accessed November 22, 2016,

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