SunPower Corp. yesterday announced a supply deal with NextEra Energy Resources for 125 MW in the first big test of its Performance-Series (P-Series) modules. The deal also signals a radical shift in its business strategy for the struggling panel manufacturer from more expensive back-contact monocrystalline modules to less expensive multicrystalline products.
Under the agreement, SunPower will deliver the P-Series modules, whose unusual design consists of overlapping rows of cells, between June and October 2017 for a project as yet unnamed. The NextEra power-plant project represents the first deal for the P-Series of any significance.
The module manufacture has consistently said P-Series would target underdeveloped areas of the world, but the deal with NextEra Energy suggests a project in either the United States or Canada, neither of which qualify as a developing-world country.
SunPower is betting that the P-Series might offer a path back to profitability, something that has suffered at the company in recent quarters. The falling revenues have resulted from a significantly slowing utility-scale U.S. market, which is where the company has previously focused its sales efforts.
As pv magazine reported last month, the P-Series is a dramatic departure from SunPower’s high-efficiency back-contact monocrystalline designs and will feature overlapping half-cut multicrystalline PV cells. These will feature lower efficiencies of only 16-17.2%, but at a much lower cost than the company’s E-Series and X-Series modules, and are designed for deployment in competitive power markets, including in the developing world.
Also, it appears that the P-Series will be manufactured largely in China, as SunPower recently signed a deal with two Chinese companies to build a massive 5 GW factory in the nation. SunPower claims a pipeline of 850 MW of solar projects in Latin America, where U.S. tariffs on Chinese products will not apply, and has also said that it plans to expand its activities in the Indian market.