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SunPower Corporation

SunPower was founded in 1985 to manufacture solar panels. It currently produces 125 mm-wide single-crystal silicon solar cells. Its top solar cell has a conversion efficiency of 24.2%, a world-record for single-crystal PV technology.  SunPower has a long history in solar energy. Most notably, the company donated the solar cells used the AeroVironment and NASA in constructing the Pathfinder-Plus unmanned aerial vehicle.

In 2011, amid financial difficulty, Total S.A., the French oil giant and one of the Supermajor oil companies, purchased a 60% share in SunPower for $1.38 billion USD. SolarPower lost $33 million USD in 2009, a trend that was repeated through 2011.

SunPower offers PV installations using its cells that range in size from residential systems all the way up to utility-scale power plants. Because the PV panels are modular, the company is able to scale systems easily. Most residential installations are handled by homeowners or third party contractors. Utility-scale installations are generally designed and the installation overseen by SunPower.

On the utility scale, SunPower has attempted to streamline installation by creating “modular power blocks.” These blocks come as 1.5 megawatt integrated systems in a variety of shapes. Tracking systems, electrical components, and inverters are all pre-manufactured to make for easy installation. This approach allows SunPower to reduce installation and manufacturing costs as well as complexity of its systems.

Installations

The most notable installation for SunPower is the 1 megawatt solar tracking system on the campus of Agilent Technology. Three thousand five hundred SunPower solar cells cover the Agilent’s 3 acre parking lot canopy.

In 2010, SunPower completed a 505 kilowatt PV system for Australia based Horizon Power. The system is the largest solar tracking system in Australia and is combined with a diesel backup system to create a hybrid fossil-renewable power generation facility.

The company’s most recently completed project is the 2.2 megawatt solar plant in Mungyeong Korea. It also runs the 15 megawatt Nellis Solar Power Plant in Nevada, U.S., and has 61 megawatts of PV panels that it directly controls in Spain.
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