Occasionally, the sun will spew out a massive solar flare large enough that the radiation it directs toward Earth can disrupt satellite communications. But it could be even worse than that one of these days. Recently, experts warned that a supersized solar flare could actually wreak havoc on the global economy.

I mention this little factoid because I think it is a useful analogy for thinking about what occurred in the solar industry last week, when the equivalent of two smaller solar "flares" shot out toward investors.

Flare No. 1
News of the first flare was buried in The Wall Street Journal. In a tiny four-paragraph story, the paper reported that Kyocera (NYSE:KYO), one of the world's largest solar companies, is doubling its production capacity from 240 megawatts currently to 500 megawatts by 2011.

While 500 megawatts represents only one-tenth of 1% of the overall energy market, it wouldn't be long before solar energy comes to represent more than just a blip on the energy map if Kyocera and other companies in the sector, such as Evergreen (NASDAQ:ESLR), First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR), and SolarWorld, can continue to double their production every few years.

And while even rapid growth will not be enough to disrupt the demand for coal or nuclear-generated electrical power for some time, the solar industry's growth could cause some problems for other alternative-energy sources such as wind power. For instance, the ability to build a 250-megawatt thin-film-manufacturing facility -- just as Applied Materials (NASDAQ:AMAT) is helping Moser Baer do in India -- is a lot easier than gaining the necessary regulatory permits for a 250-megawatt wind farm. Of course, comparing the two technologies is somewhat of an apples-to-oranges comparison, but my broader point is that solar power can ramp up more quickly than wind can.

Flare No. 2
The second flare can be found on the website of SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR). On Wednesday, the company announced that Sandia National Laboratories measured SunPower's SPR-315 solar panel "at the highest recorded conversion efficiency ever tested by Sandia for a commercially available, mass-produced solar panel."

I highlight this bit of news to emphasize that not only is the industry manufacturing an ever greater number of solar cells, but also the cells themselves are becoming more efficient. As they improve, installation costs will decrease (since fewer panels will have to be put on a roof), and people's electric bills will be positively affected because each panel will be producing more power.

The combination of these two "flares" -- increased manufacturing capacity and higher-efficiency solar cells -- has further convinced me that we are still in the early stages of the solar revolution. There will be more big flares coming from this industry.

In addition to the industry's giants -- including Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection Suntech Power (NYSE:STP), which is making advances on both fronts -- a number of promising new private solar companies, such as HelioVolt and Nanosolar, are also toiling away at bringing breakthrough technologies to the commercial marketplace. And if they are successful, they will have the potential to disrupt not only many existing solar companies but traditional energy companies as well.

Put your shades on
Investors are encouraged to don protective eyewear, because while the future of solar is very bright, you could get burned by the growing number of new advances in solar technology if you're looking in the wrong direction.

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