SunPower Corporation
Industry Solar Energy
Founded 1985
Founder Richard Swanson
Headquarters San Jose, California, U.S.
Key people
Thomas H. Werner (CEO)
Products Solar panels
Revenue Decrease US$ 1,576,470,000 (2016)
Decrease US$ -206,290,000 (2016)
Decrease US$ -187,020,000 (2016)
Total assets Decrease US$ 4,856,990,000 (2016)
Total equity Decrease US$ 1,449,150,000 (2016)
Number of employees
6,320 (December 2013)
Parent Total S.A. (66%)

Footnotes / references
Financials from SunPower Corporation


SunPower Corporation is an American energy company that designs and manufactures crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells, roof tiles and solar panels based on an all-back-contact solar cell invented at Stanford University. The company is owned 66% by Total, Europe's third largest oil company, and is publicly traded on the NASDAQ as SPWR (formerly SPWRA and SPWRB); it is a component of the Dow Jones Oil and Gas Index DJUSEN.


In 1997, the company's solar cells were used in NASA Pathfinder high altitude aircraft.[2]

In January 2007, SunPower corporation acquired PowerLight Corporation, a leading global provider of large-scale solar power systems<ref name="History"/[3] In February 2010, it acquired Europe's SunRay Renewable Energy for $277 million.[4] On 29 April 2011, Total S.A. agreed to buy 60% of SunPower for US$1.38 billion.[5] On 23 December 2011, the company announced an agreement to acquire Tenesol SA.[6]

In October 2014, the company was described as "Silicon Valley’s dominant solar panel manufacturer." [7]

On February 23, 2015, SunPower (SPWR) and First Solar (FSLR) announced plans to set up a joint yieldco.


The company's main product is a high-efficiency solar cell, trademarked "Maxeon", the same size and shape as conventional 6-inch/160 mm single-crystal silicon cells, packaged into conventional 60-cell solar panels. The cells have a conversion efficiency of 21.5%, and each panel produces up to 345 W; typical conventional panels produce up to 250 to 270 W.[8][9]

Silicon solar cells typically consist of a thin layer of silicon chemically treated to produce an electrically active layer near the front that produces electricity when the sun shines on it. Collecting that energy is normally handled via a series of very fine wires embedded on the front. There is an inherent paradox in the wiring design; larger wires lower electrical resistance and improve energy collection but reflect light that would otherwise reach the cell and improve energy creation. The wires are normally made of silver for a variety of reasons, although less expensive copper and aluminum wiring has been attempted with no great market success. The circuit is completed by a thin layer of aluminum that is deposited on the back of the cell.

The Maxeon design starts with the same basic silicon cell, but changes the electrical connections. The silver wiring on the front is eliminated and replaced by a transparent electrode material, similar to the materials used in LCD televisions and similar devices. These electrodes have poorer electrical characteristics than silver, but by covering the entire face of the cell they improve overall performance, while eliminating light blockage. The back of the cell replaces the thin aluminum layer with a thicker copper one, which both improves electrical performance as well as offering a much more physically robust platform while eliminating corrosion that occurs in the aluminum over time.[10] On June 23, 2010, The company announced that it has produced a full-scale solar cell with a sunlight to electricity conversion efficiency of 24.2 percent, a world record confirmed by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL).[11]

After the cells are constructed, conventional assembly system uses a robot to place the cells into a grid of 6 columns of 10 cells - other arrangements are used, but rare outside commercial settings. As they are placed, wiring consisting of a strip of silver is woven between the cells and soldered to the connectors on the front and back. A small amount of space is required between the cells to allow the strips to pass over and under the cells. The layout takes place on top of a plastic sheet known as the backsheet, and the cells and wiring are glued to the sheet as the assembly advances. When the glue dries, the resulting laminate is ready for assembly into a panel, which consists of gluing the cell side of the laminate to a glass sheet, adding a junction box for electrical connections, and adding an aluminum frame around the outside for mechanical robustness. Different assembly systems may use different steps, but the end result is a glass sheet on top, cells and wiring in the middle, and the backsheet on the back.

The company's panels are similar in concept and layout, but include a number of additional changes to further improve the system. Instead of using silver strips to connect the cells together, which is no longer needed due to the lack of silver on the cells, its panels use a robust edge-connector that includes a built-in strain relief to reduce mechanical stress. According to the company, these changes eliminate 85% of the failures in conventional designs, which is due primarily to corrosion and electrical breaks. Only 14% of failures are due to cell or component failures.[10]

The downside to these design changes is cost, both the materials and construction methods are more expensive and drive up the price of the panels. However, the price of the panel is not the only input to a solar power system's total cost, and in recent years it accounts for much less than half of the total. In this case, using a more expensive panel can actually produce a lower overall system cost if savings can be found in installation time or there are artificial limits on system size. These are both true in the case of residential installs, where the roof defines the total size of the system that can be installed, and the cost of labor is the largest single cost of the system. Simply replacing conventional panels with SunPower panels will increase the total power of the system as much as 25% without having any effect on install times, in which case the total install cost in terms of price per watt can improve in spite of higher prices on the panels.


SunPower has recently announced a number of projects around the world that utilize its patented solar tracker technology. The company maintains a market-leading position in Spain with more than 61 megawatts installed or under construction; recently completed a 2.2-megawatt solar power plant in Mungyeong, Korea, the 15-megawatt Nellis Solar Power Plant in Nevada,[12][13] and the 579-megawatt Solar Star PV power plant - the largest solar PV power plant in the US.[14]

On October 6, 2008, Agilent Technologies and SunPower Corporation announced that a 1-megawatt solar tracking system at Agilent's campus will start producing electricity in mid-October. The system features a 3-acre (1.2 ha) parking lot canopy structure with nearly 3,500 SunPower solar panels that track the sun throughout the day. The design of the company's tracking solar system will generate up to 25 percent more energy for Agilent than a similarly sized flat, rooftop system, the company said. As a result, Agilent's solar parking canopy is the largest solar energy generator in Sonoma County, California.

SunPower donated the solar cells for the NASA/AeroVironment Pathfinder-Plus high-altitude UAV, which then set an altitude record of 80,201 feet (24,445 m) for solar-powered and propeller-driven aircraft.[15][16]

On August 4, 2010, the company announced it has completed a 505-kilowatt solar power installation for Horizon Power, a government-owned utility providing power to remote and regional communities and resource operations in the Marble Bar and Nullagine areas of the east Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The ground-mounted SunPower T20 Tracker installation is the largest solar tracking system in Australia, and powers the world's first high penetration, hybrid solar-diesel power stations. The power stations will generate approximately 1,048 megawatt hours of solar energy per year and will produce 60 percent to 90 percent of daily electricity needs for the remote communities. This project was supported by the Australian Government through the Renewable Remote Power Generation Program and implemented by the Office of Energy in Western Australia.[17]

In 2011, SunPower and Ford announced they would give Ford electric car buyers an option to install a residential solar panel placed as part of the rooftop that will charge the electric car.[18] In December 2011, the company announced the collaboration with the Solar Impulse project for the building of HB-SIA their first solar airplane, and later HB-SIB the second airplane attempting a round-the world in 2015.[19]

In June 2012, the company announced the completion of solar panel installation on the second ZeroHouse 2.0, a "net-zero" home, on the East Coast. The home, built by KB Homes and located in Waldorf, Maryland, uses solar power and energy efficiency to produce as much energy as it uses.[20]

In October 2014, a 16 megawatt system under construction by the company at UC Davis was projected to become "the largest solar power plant on an American college campus."[7]

Retail renewable electricity

The company partnered with Citigroup to offer Solar Lease options to more diversified markets, expanding to different states in July 2011.[21] The company announced plans to compete with retail electric rates by reducing system cost by 50% by 2012.[22]

Dealer network

Solar power system installation companies can be certified by SunPower if they meet certain training program specifications. Dealers are sorted into four tiers depending on the level of company-specific training completed, and the overall level of customer satisfaction.[23]

Development in stock exchange

The company's shares have been listed on the Photovoltaik Global 30 Index since the beginning of this stock index in 2009.

See also


  1. SunPower Corporation
  2. "The company History". 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-28.
  3. Lacy, Stephan (15 November 2006). "SunPower to Acquire PowerLight".
  4. "UPDATE 2-SunPower to acquire Europe's SunRay for $277 mln". Reuters. 11 February 2010.
  5. Herndon, Andrew; Martin, Christopher; Goossen, Ehren (2011-04-29). "Total Agrees to Buy SunPower for $1.38 Billion in Renewable-Energy Push". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2011-04-30.
  6. Williamson, Kari (29 December 2011). "Total and SunPower bring solar business under one roof". Renewable Energy Focus.
  7. 1 2 Hull, Dana (2014-10-29). "SunPower earnings: Solar is increasingly competitive". SiliconBeat. Retrieved 2014-12-07.
  8. "X-Series Solar Panels" (PDF).
  10. 1 2 "Performance Beyond Compare". SunPower USA.
  11. "SunPower Sets Solar Cell Efficiency Record at 24.2%". Renewable Energy World. 24 June 2010.
  12. "Next Generation SunPower Tracker Introduced". Space Daily.
  13. "Nellis breaks ground on DOD's largest solar array".
  14. "Fact Sheet - Solar Star Projects" (PDF).
  15. NAA record database
  16. NASA Pathfinder fact sheet, archived at
  18. VentureBeat. "SunPower packages rooftop solar panels with Ford electric cars." August 10, 2011.
  19. Solar Impulse. December 7, 2011
  20. Phillips, Gretchen (22 June 2012). "Builder, vendors show off features of green home". SoMdNews.
  21. Das, Krishna (July 28, 2011). "SunPower, Citi to finance solar lease projects". Reuters.
  22. Swanson, Dick (23 April 2009). The Future of Photovoltaic Manufacturing in the United States (PDF). NAS Symposium.
  23. "Solar Panel Installers- SunPower Dealer Network". SunPower Corporation.
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