The global solar market is driving solar stocks higher this year as the U.S., Japan, and China kick into high gear. The U.S. is expected to install 4.4 GW of solar this year, Japan may put up 7 GW, and China is expecting annual installations of about 10 GW. 

For investors, this creates a great opportunity, particularly for companies with industry-leading positions. SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR) makes the most efficient panels in the industry and has exposure to each of these markets, Canadian Solar (NASDAQ:CSIQ) was one of the first Chinese manufacturers in Japan, and SolarCity (NASDAQ:SCTY) is dominating U.S. residential solar. Joel South sat down with Travis Hoium to see what the keys are for the industry this year. 

Joel South has no position in any stocks mentioned. Fool contributor Travis Hoium manages an account that owns shares of SunPower and personally owns shares anden has the following options: long January 2015 $5 calls on SunPower, long January 2015 $7 calls on SunPower, long January 2015 $15 calls on SunPower, long January 2015 $25 calls on SunPower, and long January 2015 $40 calls on SunPower. The Motley Fool owns shares of SolarCity. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.