SunPower Is Steadily Winning the Solar Battle

SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR  ) is known around the solar industry as the manufacturer of the most efficient and some of the most expensive panels in the industry. But it's also one of the largest utility-scale project builders in the world and has an emerging business in residential solar. That's where that high efficiency can overcome high costs and create a lower cost of energy than competitors. 

Some may be surprised to find out that SunPower's 44 MW of residential solar installed last quarter is behind only SolarCity (NASDAQ: SCTY  ) in the U.S. If we look globally, the 128 MW it installed makes it the No. 1 residential solar company in the world. 

SunPower is also winning against First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR  ) , which has long had some of the lowest costs in the industry. Over the past year, SunPower's margins have been rising and it's running factories at capacity while First Solar's margins are down and it's making just 83% of the panels it could. 

In the video below, solar analyst Travis Hoium covers how SunPower is winning in solar and what the next big steps are for the company. 

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  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2014, at 10:28 AM, 1dms wrote:

    You talked me into getting a small handful of SPWR when it was at $4.89. Thanks, I will probably get more soon.

    I also have shares of FSLR so follow it closely. A Bloomberg New Energy Finance did a study in India last year of different panels and manufacturers and concluded in that climate, which is a lot of the world, FSLR panels were the most efficient. So SPWR is not always more efficient than FSLR, right? From the article and the link,

    "Indian solar plants using silicon-free panels, mostly supplied by First Solar Inc. (FSLR), emerged as the best performers in the first year of operation, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said.

    An analysis of 33 projects in Gujarat, India’s biggest state for solar installations, found that those using thin-film panels without silicon achieved an average capacity utilization factor of 19.6 percent, compared with 18.5 percent for competing technologies, the London-based researcher said in a note to clients.

    “This is consistent with thin-film performing better at high temperatures,” said Bharat Bhushan Agrawal, BNEF’s New Delhi-based solar analyst. Projects that bought equipment from Tempe, Arizona-based First Solar also probably benefited from better advice from U.S. engineers on design and siting, he said. "

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-04/thin-film-solar-top...

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2014, at 11:43 AM, wiserinvestor wrote:

    U.S. made Stion solar modules offers a better PTC to STC ratio "Real World" performance according to the California Energy Commission's performance rating listings than many of SunPower's solar panel models. Stion solar also offers a better -0.26%/degree C temperature coefficient rating for awesome performance in hot/warm climates and best of all Stion solar systems are priced thousands less and even tens of thousands less on larger systems than a SunPower solar system.

  • Report this Comment On March 04, 2014, at 1:38 PM, TMFFlushDraw wrote:

    @1dms

    You're mistaking efficiency with capacity utilization. SunPower's most efficient panel is 21.5% efficient and First Solar averaged 13.4% efficient in Q4.

    What capacity utilization does is measure what percentage of the time the panels are pumping out their rated efficiency. So, if a 300 watt panel produces 1.44 kW-hrs in a day, it has 20% capacity utilization.

    300 watts * 24 hours * 20% capacity utilization = 1,440 watt-hours.

    A First Solar panel will achieve higher capacity utilization all else equal because it is better at capturing diffuse light, high temps, etc. This does not mean that FSLR's modules are more efficient or more cost effective when building an entire system.

    Similarly, things like trackers will bring capacity utilization up -- to around 30% in some cases. That's the reason SPWR is building C7, it will capture more power by tracking the sun than a fixed installation.

    I hope that helps,

    Travis Hoium

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