Last week was a wrenching one for 1,100 ex-employees at Solyndra. The exact internal details of the sudden shutdown will be lost to history, but the way those employees were let go was pretty graceless. Surely the board could have done that differently.

But jobs are made and lost in Silicon Valley every day and greentech still serves as a job and trade engine for the region and the nation.

On this Labor Day 2011, remember that the job creators are not the investors or the wealthy, but the entrepreneurs and employees at companies like these:

First Solar has more than 6,500 employees globally, of which over 1,700 are in the U.S. The largest solar company by market capitalization is in the midst of building a second U.S. factory in Mesa, Arizona, which will employ 600 after it fully ramps production next year. Approximately 400 to 500 construction jobs are involved in building it. The 2.6 gigawatts of projects that First Solar has under contract with utilities will create nearly 4,000 construction jobs over the next two to four years, in Nevada, California, and Arizona. The firm has more than 200 open positions on its website.

SunPower, the leader in solar panel efficiency, has approximately 1,000 employees throughout California and creates thousands more indirect California jobs at dealers and in construction.

SolarCity, a provider of solar power and energy efficiency services, with just over 1,200 employees, has added 484 new people so far this year, and expects to hire 200 to 300 more before the end of the year.  There are 16 new people starting next week and the firm currently has 183 openings. The hires are spread across 11 states.

BrightSource Energy, the solar thermal developer, has approximately 300 employees globally and lists 27 current openings.  The Ivanpah project currently employs 700 workers and that number will peak at more than 1,400 in 2012.

Nanosolar has approximately 325 employees, with approximately 200 employees in their headquarters and solar cell factory in San Jose, California and 125 people in their panel factory in Luckenwalde, Germany. The roll-to-roll CIGS thin film firm currently has 15 openings. As part of a capacity expansion, Nanosolar expects to add 50 permanent new positions in San Jose between now and December 2011.  

Sungevity, a residential solar leasing firm, has quadrupled its headcount since September 2010 to its current total of 300. 

Tim Harris, the CEO of flexible solar panel firm SoloPower told me that there are approximately 120 people at their San Jose, California site, with plans to hire approximately 20 more engineers, salespeople, and technicians in the coming months. They will be hiring approximately 150 people for the new Portland, Oregon facility. 

SolFocus, a CPV pioneer, employs about 95 people at its San Jose headquarters and a total of 130 globally.  They have about 10 open requisitions at this time, and anticipate 15 percent to 20% growth in the next year.

SunRun, another residential solar leasing firm, increased headcount by 300 percent in 2010 and continues to hire aggressively, according to a company spokesperson. The current employee count is over 110 people. 

SolarBridge, a PV microinverter startup, has quadrupled the number of employees at its Austin headquarters from 15 to 60 since the spring of 2009.  The company expects to employ 75 people by year's end.  

SolarReserve, the solar thermal/energy storage firm, started with 3 employees in 2008 and has 50 employees today.  Their lead project, the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy outside of Tonopah, Nevada, is expected to proceed into full construction in the next few weeks and will peak with more than 4,300 direct and indirect jobs in the facility supply chain including manufacturing, value-added services and transportation. Additionally, the project will employ 45 full-time operational staff.   

Tigo, a solar panel optimizer firm, has just under 100 employees total, about two-thirds of which are in Los Gatos, California. They foresee ten percent job growth through 2011, and another 20 percent to 30 percent in 2012. They are looking for skilled software and hardware development personnel in the San Francisco Bay Area. Contact them at

AQT, a CIGS solar firm that doesn't have anything to do with glass tubes or DOE loan guarantees, will be doubling its workforce in the next two quarters, according to the CEO, Michael Bartholomeusz.

Silver Spring Networks, the smart grid network platform, has doubled its headcount over the past two years.

Adrian Tuck, the CEO of smart grid firm Tendril, writes, "We have 19 new people starting in September alone and have 30 open positions beyond that.  We are expanding at a rate of about 10 to 15 people a month and plan to continue to do so all the way through next year.  It is a tight market for software engineers (feels like 1999); we are doing lots of things to find them including advertising on NPR and on the sides of buses and trains." (See below.) He adds, "We held a competition amongst our engineers to come up with the slogans for the bus adverts -- they are designed to resonate with engineers, but some of them don't make a lot of sense to us mere mortals."