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Two US PV manufacturers have announced milestones in the outsourced production of their equipment, suggesting the ‘fab-less’ and ‘asset-lite’ business model exist in the PV industry.
SunPower has just celebrated production of its first half a million PV modules manufactured by Flextronics at its assembly line in Milpitas, California.
The plant, started in 2011, was said to produce between 80-90MW of modules for SunPower on an annual basis that includes SunPower’s ‘E-Series’ module in 128-cell format for solar power plants, and in a 96-cell format for US commercial and residential markets.
"Today's milestone is a great accomplishment for both companies," said Jeannine Sargent, Flextronics’ president of energy. "Flextronics is extremely proud to help SunPower in its goal to manufacture clean, renewable solar energy for local customers in Silicon Valley, surrounding communities and throughout the U.S."
SunPower also shares its integrated manufacturing plant in Malaysia with AU Optronics (AUO) under a joint venture agreement. AUO sells its share of the plants output via BenQ Electronics, highlighting that asset-lite business models are not just for niche players.
However, a small niche PV module player, Lumos Solar, based in Boulder, Colorado has continued its fab-less model with a manufacturing agreement with Celestica, another major OEM manufacturer.
Lumos said last week during SPI 2013 that its ‘LSX Frameless’ module series would be manufactured at Celestica's module manufacturing operation in Toronto, Canada.
“Lumos LSX modules produced by a world-class manufacturer like Celestica is an absolute game changer,” said Scott Franklin, CEO of Lumos Solar. “Our modules will be produced in North America to the highest quality standard in the solar industry today, while improving our lead times and customer service. We could not imagine a better partner.”
The company had signed an agreement with JinkoSolar several years ago, but the company told PV Tech that JinkoSolar had not been the most recent supplier of its in-houses designed modules, without divulging the name of the company that lost the business. Lumos said that it expected deliveries to start in 2014 from Celestica's plant.
The two announcements confirm recent suggestions by analysts such as NPD Solarbuzz that the fab-less outsourcing model will become more common in the PV industry, as it as in other parts of the semiconductor business.
However, other research firms such as IHS believe the model has little chance of success in the PV industry.