Shares of SunPower Corporation (SPWR 4.77%) jumped as much as 16.8% in trading Wednesday after the solar manufacturer announced the acquisition of SolarWorld Americas' operations. Shares settled a bit by midday, but were still up 10% as of 12:25 p.m. EDT.
The main asset SunPower is buying is the Hillsboro, Oregon, manufacturing facility, which has 430 megawatts (MW) of solar cell capacity and 550 MW of solar panel manufacturing capacity. The company will restart existing manufacturing lines and sell legacy products in the U.S., but it will also install P-Series manufacturing equipment, which takes commodity solar cells and stacks them like shingles to create a solar panel that's more efficient than traditional manufacturing methods. It's the P-Series product that SunPower will likely sell to utility customers in the U.S.
There weren't a lot of details in the acquisition announcement, so we don't know the purchase price or how much capacity SunPower plans to add to the existing facility. But the fact that SunPower is making a big move to acquire U.S. manufacturing capacity to become the largest solar manufacturer in the U.S. is major news for the company.
Until we know more, it's hard to gauge the impact this deal will have on SunPower's bottom line. SolarWorld's facility went through bankruptcy last year, so SunPower may have to make changes to lower the cost structure to make solar panels from the facility competitive in today's market. Solar tariffs on competing products will help make the economics better than they were last year, but we don't know exactly how much of an effect the Oregon facility will have on SunPower's finances. Overall, I'm cautiously optimistic about these expansion plans, but want to know management's full plan for U.S. operations before buying into this as a game-changer for SunPower in the long term.