Oregon’s largest solar project begins construction

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While SunPower continues to bleed red ink, the company is also breaking new ground for high-efficiency solar, in some cases literally. Today SunPower announced that construction firm Moss has begun work on a 56 MW solar PV project in Eastern Oregon, using its E-Series PV modules and its modular Oasis platform for utility-scale projects.

The Gala Solar plant will be larger than any currently operating in Oregon, which a year ago set a mandate to get 50% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2040. And while many associate Oregon with the nine months of rain that is the norm in the western part of the state, Oregon east of the Cascade Mountains has a dry climate and good solar resource. This includes the pine hills, ranches and scrubland of Crook County, east of Bend, where Gala is being built.

SunPower has made a business for itself in manufacturing and project development, based on its high-efficiency back-contact solar Maxeon cell technology. And while the company’s E-Series modules are less expensive and offer a lower efficiency at around 20% than its X-Series (the most high-efficiency solar panels available for the rooftop market), they still offer a higher energy yield per area than even competing high-efficiency multi- or even mono-crystalline designs.

SunPower argues that its approach of using higher-efficiency modules combined with the innovations in its Oasis solution allow for higher energy density, less components per watt and construction efficiency. But while the company is still building projects with Oasis, its chronic quarterly losses suggest that it may be difficult to compete in an era of crushed prices for both modules and power contracts.

As a reaction to this, the company has launched its P-Series, which offers a very different module design and which SunPower says will allow it to compete in low-cost markets in the developing world.