History of Solar Turbines



For more than 90 years, Solar Turbines has been a global leader in energy solutions and advanced manufacturing. Today Solar is a key player in the 1,000 to 30,000 horsepower (hp) segment of the global gas turbine market, making it a major contributor to the production and transmission of the world’s daily output of oil and natural gas.

Founded in 1927 as Prudden-San Diego Airplane Company, the organization evolved from building airplanes to components to a variety of products throughout the Great Depression. During this time, Solar Aircraft Company (renamed because of San Diego’s sunny climate) began pioneering techniques to fabricate high-temperature materials, such as stainless-steel for airplane engine exhaust manifolds.

Throughout World War II Solar continued to make valuable contributions, producing exhaust manifolds for U.S. airplanes and pioneering the development critical high-temperature components for America's first aircraft gas turbines or jet engines. This was marked the beginning of a decades-long journey to becoming the world leader in industrial gas turbines and turbomachinery packages.

After World War II, Solar Aircraft Company used its expertise in metallurgy and fabricating difficult materials to produce aircraft/aerospace hardware, such as jet engine afterburners and rocket components. Additionally, other products were produced to help the company remain viable, including stainless-steel caskets, frying pans, bulk milk containers, and redwood furniture.



During the 1950s, Solar continued to develop expertise in the gas turbine markets. Including working with the Navy to develop and manufacture  small gas turbines to power portable pump units for fighting fires aboard ships and generating shipboard electrical power.

A significant evolution of Solar occurred with a U.S. Navy contract calling for development of a 750-kW(1000-hp) engine for high-speed boat propulsion. The result was the Saturn® gas turbine, which entered production in 1960. The same year Solar Aircraft Company became a subsidiary of International Harvester Company.

Saturn turbine was smaller, lighter in weight, more reliable and easier to maintain than the large, low-speed reciprocating engines that had been traditional for industrial applications. The Saturn went on to become the world's most widely used industrial gas turbine with some 4800 units in 80 countries. It remains in production today.

Solar started to offer fully factory assembled and tested turbomachinery packages, such as complete gas compressor sets, pump-drive packages and generator sets. In 1960 Solar began to build its own line of centrifugal-flow natural-gas compressors.

Caterpillar Inc. purchased the assets of Solar Turbines from International Harvester Company in 1981, and continues to be a wholly owned subsidiary.






Solar has long been a pioneer in sustainability and developing products that limit environmental impact. By 1992, Solar introduced pollution-prevention SoLoNOx gas turbines. The advanced, dry, lean-premixed SoLoNOx combustion technology is available for current models and retrofitted to many previously installed models earlier turbines. Here again, Solar leads the industry with more than 2,000 SoLoNOx engines shipped to customers in numerous countries.

Throughout the following years Solar developed the first industrial gas turbine with ceramic components, which increased power and higher thermal efficiency while lowering exhaust emissions.

Solar Turbines ranks as a world leader in industrial turbines up to 30,000 hp. The company has sold more than 15,000 gas turbine systems which are operating on land and offshore to provide rugged, reliable power all over the world.




Explore The Solar Turbines Difference


Products for Every Solution, In Every Industry

Solar Turbines provides best in class energy solutions with turbomachinery for power generation and motor driven compression products and packages. Our wide range of solutions maximize availability, reliability and value throughout your equipment's life cycle. 


Optimizing Equipment Value, Anywhere and Anytime

Customer support extends beyond maintenance and repairs to include broad offerings that help enhance performance and safety, extend equipment life and prevent obsolescence.


Innovations for Energy Solutions

Solar Turbines has been innovating the energy industry for more than 60 years and we will continue to push what is possible.