Source: SunPower Corporation 

In back-to-back announcements, SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ:SPWR) just reminded investors that solar companies are more than just stocks. While analysts are busy diving deep into cash flow statements and earnings announcements, SunPower released news that, once again, proved it's a leading solar competitor. Here's what you need to know.

More Solar Bang
The solar industry is expanding fast, and the number of rooftop solar systems currently in place will pale in comparison to the amount installed 10 years from now. In the next two years alone, the Solar Energy Industries Association expects around 20,000 megawatts of new solar capacity to come online, roughly doubling our nation's current capacity. SunPower wants to be the company that takes us there.

Just last week, Sunpower announced that its new SunPower X-Series panel clocked in at a record-breaking 22.8% efficiency. That's well beyond conventional panels' 15% to 18% efficiency, and even beats First Solar's (NASDAQ:FSLR) 18.2% efficient cadmium-telluride modules it announced in June 2015. First Solar had been playing catch-up with Chinese manufacturers over the past few years as its cost-competitiveness eroded, but SunPower continues to claim first place for efficiency. SunPower President of Business Units Howard Wenger put his company's value proposition this way:

Solar technology differs widely from brand to brand, so it's important for consumers to consider that not all panels deliver the same amount of energy, look elegant on a roof, or are guaranteed to last as long as promised. SunPower panels are the most efficient that homeowners can buy, and we stand behind them for a quarter century. We're proud to hold the world-record title for efficiency. 

For Less Buck

Source: SunPower Corporation 

Since 2010, average residential solar prices have fallen 45%, with utility-scale costs plummeting even further. While efficiency improvements are important, customers of all sizes also want the best bargain. First Solar saw its utility-scale offerings erode when it could no longer compete on cost, alone, and SunPower needs to ensure its efficiency is paired with affordability -- and it is.

The solar company announced earlier this week that its fully integrated commercial Helix Roof product can be installed two and a half times faster than market competitors. "With standardized Helix components, we have eliminated the inefficiencies and added costs of complex system design," said Wenger in a statement. "Helix makes the complex simple, allowing our commercial and public agency customers to easily and intelligently manage their energy use and costs and maximize solar power production over the long-term." 

Source: SunPower Corporation 

Investor takeaway
Long-time solar stock investors have seen their fair share of sunny and rainy market days. These two latest SunPower announcements serve as an important reminder that solar investments are more than just stocks -- they're companies with products and customers. SunPower is pushing the frontier on both technology productivity and cost efficiency, ensuring that it can continue to attract customers in years to come. When investors develop their own solar stock theses, it's important to examine the fundamentals and finances of industry stalwarts like SunPower Corporation and First Solar. But looking up from the books can be equally essential, especially in an industry where future growth opportunities dwarf historic performance.


This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.