SunPower enters major China manufacturing JV for P-Series solar modules

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SunPower told PV Tech that it in partnership with TZS it had teamed with DEC to form the DZS joint venture cell and module manufacturing operations in early 2016. Image: SunPower P-Series module using Cogenra technology.

US-headquartered high-efficiency PV module producer SunPower has officially signed a new joint venture partnership in China to produce both solar cells and modules for its P-Series technology. 

The JV was signed February 22, 2017 between its existing China-based supply chain partners Dongfang Electric Company (DEC) and Tianjin Zhonghuan Semiconductor (TZS) that includes a manufacturing capacity expansion from 1.1GW to 5GW. 

PV Tech was told that Dongfang Huansheng Photovoltaic Company (DZS) the solar PV manufacturing subsidiary of DEC currently manufactures high efficiency monocrystalline PERC (Passivated Emitter Rear Contact) solar cells in a 1.1GW facility in Yixing, China, according to confirmation from SunPower. 

DZS is one of four strategic joint ventures that SunPower and TZS were said by SunPower to have been developed in China since December 2012, which spans component manufacturing of SunPower’s low-concentrated C7 technology for PV power plants that were designed for high irradiance regions of China.  

SunPower told PV Tech that it in partnership with TZS it had teamed with DEC to form the DZS joint venture cell and module manufacturing operations in early 2016.

SunPower’s P-Series cell and modules are based on patented technology it acquired with the acquisition of solar start-up Cogenra in 2015. SunPower announced later in 2015 that it had developed the P-Series module from Cogenra’s IP and would ramp production using third-party solar cells to 2GW by 2020. The assembly of the cells would be conducted at SunPower’s module assembly plant in Mexicali, Mexico. 

SunPower management had noted in its most recent earnings call that it planned to expand its supply chain partnerships specifically in China as it undertakes a major manufacturing restructuring of the company but were not specific in their comments regarding a complete manufacturing partnership. 

“We will continue to focus on panel and BOS (Balance of System) cost reduction programs,” noted Thomas Werner, CEO of SunPower Corp in the earnings call. “Our transition to our industry leading X-Series technology is continuing and we expect at least 350 megawatts of capacity by the end of 2017. We also plan on expanding our relationships in China to leverage low-cost China supply chain from our P-Series technology.

The expanded partnership via DZS and monocrystalline ingot/wafer producer TZS enables SunPower to address downstream PV power plant opportunities outside the US at a level far bigger than the initial 2GW capacity plan originally outlined in late 2015. 

Due to US and EU anti-dumping duties on Chinese made solar cells and modules the new JV capacity would only be required for expansion in Mexico, Latin America, MENA, Asia including China and Australia. 

Currently, SunPower has installed P-Series assembly equipment with a nameplate capacity of 200MW at its Mexicali facility and a further 200MW is expected to be installed by the end of the first quarter of 2017. 

SunPower also confirmed to PV Tech that the new manufacturing JV for the P-Series modules would start ramping production in 2018. 

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