SunPower has long been an efficiency leader in commercially available solar PV cells and modules. It also routinely ranks in the top 10 for global solar module sales. If the even-higher-efficiency concentrated solar PV market ever takes off, it seems SunPower will also be a leader there. It just landed a huge (70 megawatt) deal to supply Huaxia Concentrated Photovoltaic Power Co., Ltd., with solar cell packages for the first phase of two SunPower™ C7 Tracker (C7) projects in Inner Mongolia, China.
These two projects are a 20-MW project in Saihan and a 100-MW project in Wuchuan. Both are expected to be completed in 2015.
“Today’s announcement is a first step in our aggressive efforts to break into the Chinese market,” said Tom Werner, SunPower president and CEO. “Working together with our strong local partners, we believe that we can deploy significant volumes of our SunPower C7 Tracker power plants to help serve China’s growing need for clean power.”
Here are some more details on the partnership and technology from a press release about the topic:
The definitive agreement for the Huaxia Concentrated Photovoltaic Power JV was initially signed in December of 2012, and officially approved and registered in November of 2013. The JV includes SunPower, Tianjin Zhonghuan Semiconductor Co., Ltd., Inner Mongolia Power (Group) Co., Ltd. and Hohhot Jinqiao City Development Company, Ltd. Its focus is to manufacture and deploy SunPower’s proprietary C7 concentrator technology in the Chinese market. To date, a 300-MW C7 receiver manufacturing facility has been set up in Jinqiao Development Zone, Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, and a 50-MW production line is now in operation.
The C7 combines single-axis tracking technology with rows of parabolic mirrors that reflect light onto SunPower’s high efficiency, third-generation Maxeon solar cells with efficiencies of up to 24.5 percent. These mirrors will reduce the number of cells required to generate electricity, lowering the levelized cost of energy when compared to competing technologies. For example, a 400-MW C7 power plant requires less than 70 MW of SunPower cells. Through significant localization of C7 manufacturing and supply chain, and deployment of the C7 for large-scale power plant projects, it is expected that this venture will facilitate the development of a low cost, high volume supply chain and accelerate the cost reduction roadmap of this product.
After covering the solar energy market for several years, I’ve come to the conclusion that there will be a sizable market for a number of different solar technologies — crystalline PV, thin-film, concentrated solar thermal power, and concentrated photovoltaics (CPV). However, I think one of the sectors most likely to see explosive growth in the coming five years or so is CPV. It seems to be getting to the level where the cost-efficiency tradeoff can make CPV commercially competitive in some applications.
*Full disclosure: I hold stock in SunPower (SPWR). I’m “long” Yingli, as they would say.