Horace Greeley, a 19th-century editor and statesman, once famously told the ambitious pioneers of his day, "Go West, young man." It was good advice a century and a half ago, and for companies seeking to get involved in the burgeoning solar industry, it remains solid advice today.

By 2020, the state of California alone plans to install at least 3,000 megawatts of solar power. It's an ambitious goal, and it helps explain why privately held NanoSolar is racing to build a production facility in San Jose capable of producing 430 megawatts of solar power, and why China-based Suntech Power (NYSE:STP) recently established a U.S. subsidiary.

According to this report in Inside Greentech, German solar manufacturer SolarWorld is now the latest company to seek out a strong presence on the West Coast of the United States. It has reportedly purchased a high-tech production facility in Oregon for a bargain-basement price of $40 million. (The facility was originally built for the Komatsu Group, which had invested $500 million to outfit it as a silicon chip plant).

The plan is for SolarWorld to transfer one of its existing production facilities in the state of Washington to the site within the next few months, and begin producing 100 megawatts' worth of solar cells by the end of year. The company expects to expand the plant's capacity to be capable of producing 500 megawatts of solar modules by 2009.

You may recall that early last year, SolarWorld acquired Royal Dutch Shell's (NYSE:RDS) solar crystalline operations in the United States, automatically establishing itself as a major player in the U.S market. This latest move has the potential to make SolarWorld even more formidable. Investors in companies such as Kyocera (NYSE:KYO), Suntech Power, Evergreen Solar (NASDAQ:ESLR), SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR), and First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) will want to keep track of its progress.

The solar space is quickly getting crowded, and in the coming years, there will likely be some sort of industry shakeout. SolarWorld's latest move dramatically improves the odds that when the gold rush is over, it will be one of the few "young men" to have profited from going west.

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Jack Uldrich owns stock in Suntech Power and GE. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.