SunPower has been a leading solar panel manufacturer for some time, so when it makes an acquisition there is always interest. SolarBridge, an Austin, Texas-based startup is its latest. The price was not revealed, but Solarbridge had taken in about $105 million from investors prior to the sale, if that figure is any indication of what it might have gone for. It isn’t surprising that SunPower purchased SolarBridge, as SunPower was also one of its investors.
Additionally, some of SolarBridge’s executives used to work at SunPower, so the two companies have been close for some time. That SunPower invested in the startup it acquired, and has had some sort of exchanging of employees, appears to speak of a deeper relationship that may bode well as they work together even more closely. At the least, it should be a sign that SunPower very much knew what it was getting into with the acquisition.
A marketing executive at SolarBridge said that SunPower has extensively vetted SolarBridge’s technology, and has referred to its microinverters as “highly reliable.”
A GTM Research report written by MJ Shiao notes: “The company believed that there was a significant pocket of demand on the premium end of Enphase, with customers willing to pay a premium for a product with enhanced reliability.” (Enphase is another microinverter manufacturer.)
Microinverters are small enough that they can be integrated into a solar module in a factory, meaning that they don’t have to be installed later at the site of the solar power system. Of course, this means less labor, so there is a lower cost of installation and a faster one as well.
“This is the beginning of integrating electronics into our world-class solar panel technology. In this case, the combined result will provide our residential customers with an elegant, reliable and complete solution that fits their home specifications, including system design flexibility, ease of installation and maintenance and improved overall aesthetics,” SunPower CEO Tom Werner explained. He also mentioned that using the SolarBridge technology would provide SunPower with an opportunity to create a new product, combining its high-efficiency solar panels with the microinverters.
Do you think the media will go nuts over this story like it did with the Solyndra situation? What about the small number of birds that died at the CSP solar power plant in California? It seems to be sort of tragic that many media outlets won’t publish stories like this one about a successful solar technology startup, but will pick up on anything negative about the industry. How many people will ever hear about the inverter startup SolarBridge?