SunPower, First Solar in late-stage discussions to develop ‘world changing’ residential solar module

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The module will combine both thin film and crystalline silicon technology in an attempt to capture more of the sun’s energy. Image: SunPower.

US residential solar installer SunPower is in late-stage discussions with US thin film manufacturer First Solar to develop the “world’s most advanced residential solar panel”, its CEO Peter Faricy revealed during an analyst day presentation that also set out the company’s new strategy.

The module will employ a dual technology approach, with First Solar’s thin film technology sitting atop a layer of crystalline silicon cells, Faricy said, adding that if completed as envisioned it would be “the most technically advanced residential solar panel in history”.

First Solar would manufacturer the module with SunPower becoming the exclusive provider. All going well, the product could become available within two years.

Faricy said the module had the potential to make a big difference in terms of efficiency, durability and value for consumers, who previously were unable to access First Solar’s products as they were exclusive to the commercial and industrial (C&I) market.

“We anticipate that it will significantly raise the bar for solar module efficiency and aesthetics,” said SunPower’s chief products officer Nate Coleman.

Meanwhile, SunPower is aiming to expand its offerings and build on its customer service as it seeks to enter into life long relationships with its clients.

Faricy said the company was moving from a single product company to a “full energy product ecosystem” that will offer smart home solutions, storage and residential EV chargers alongside solar.

It has already launched an upgraded version of its battery storage system, dubbed SunVault, and has agreed to provide its PV and battery storage systems to housing developer Landsea Homes at part of a multi-year exclusive agreement.

“We’re doubling down on offering broader array of products and services and building customer relationships,” he said.

SunPower said the total addressable market (TAM) for residential solar – those households that would save money from installing solar – in the US would hit 100 million by 2026, against a projected adoption rate of just 6.1%.

SunPower is also planning to release 2.5 million of the shares it owns in solar technology company Enphase Energy as part of a drive to bring its investment capacity to more than US$1 billion through to 2025, the presentation revealed.

Elsewhere, First Solar has locked in steel supplies for solar modules made at its under-development manufacturing facility in Ohio, by signing a supply agreement with local provider Ice Industries, which could prove critical given volatility in the metal markets.

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