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SunPower’s high efficiency solar panels win 500MW+ worth of French national bids during complex year

SunPower announced that they won 291MW worth of bids as part of the most recent French Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE) energy bidding process. SunPower sells the most efficient panels available on the market.

Including prior bids this year as part of the French program, SunPower has now won 505MW worth of total projects. SunPower makes money both from selling solar panels and from owning solar farms, though this may change. They’re expected to sell 1.3-1.5GW of solar panels in 2017.

“With these awards, the total capacity of Sunpower solar panels supplied to ground, carport and rooftop, and ZNI projects awarded in this year’s first and second round tender process is 505 megawatts, more than any other solar panel brand,” said Sunpower Executive Vice President Peter Aschenbrenner.

SunPower’s lead on high-efficiency has gotten smaller recently. Historically, they were the only product available in volume above 20% efficiency. Their E-Series panel (US Residential version referenced here), is mentioned in their press release.

It was in middle 2016, that SunPower significantly changed their guidance to Wall Street. The significant fall in solar panel price of 2016 hit them like everyone else. LG and others put aggressively priced 18-19% products on the market. This year, we’re starting to see PERC solar panels roll out in high volume. Very soon, there will be multiple vendors with product efficiencies above 20% available. Historically, SunPower solar panels had been priced double the price of the lowest priced product. In 2016 – there were times when SunPower cost 3 or more times the cheaper product.

In December, SunPower announced they were closing a factory. The factory represented 25% of the company’s global workforce. This was a factory where those E-Series solar panels were being made.

In 2017, their power plant business got a shake when FirstSolar suggested they wanted to sell their share. Since then SunPower has also suggested they’d be interested in strategically selling their half of the YieldCO ‘8point3’.

During the Suniva case, SunPower has taken up a complex position. SunPower attests that the US market has taken damage from low-cost global solar panel sales, and they support action. However, they don’t believe FirstSolar’s thin-film product ought to be excluded since it too, is a low-cost product. Additionally, SunPower suggests their product – a high-efficiency, high price product – ought not be considered as part of the ban.

Electrek’s Take

SunPower has one of the best brand names in the industry, and them winning 500MW worth of projects in France (they are majority French owned these days) is definitely going to help. They’ve got the best warranty that I’ve personally dealt with (they even cover the cost of replacing the solar panels if one goes bad). However, in these times of solar panel pricing going through the ground – they’ve had some challenges. Like all solar panel manufacturers. They’re dealing with the complexity by making significant moves – closing a factory isn’t cheap. Hope winning 500MW of deals helps.

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