By Will Wade, Bloomberg
SunPower Corp., one of America’s biggest solar-panel manufacturers, is giving its manufacturing business to focus on installing rooftop solar systems.
The company is spinning off its own panel manufacturing operations into a new firm, Maxeon Solar, that will be based in Singapore using factories in France, Malaysia, Mexico and the Philippines, according to a statement Monday. Included in this bargain, a Chinese supplier of silicon wafers will make a $298 million equity investment, valuing Maxeon at $1.03 billion.
SunPower described the move as a natural growth of the maturing organization. Panel manufacturers once needed to help by installing the gear they 16, create their own market. Now the industry is large enough for companies. First Solar Inc., the biggest U.S. panel manufacturer, walked away in September from the business of building solar farms to focus on manufacturing. SunPower is moving in the opposite direction.
“As the industry gets bigger, you get businesses that concentrate,” SunPower Chief Executive Officer Tom Werner said in an interview. “It’s a part of this mainstreaming of solar power energy. ”
The spin-off usually means that the U.S. is dropping a major panel manufacturer as U.S. President Donald Trump tries to preserve solar manufacturing jobs in the home. The Trump government imposed tariffs last year in a bid to provide domestic manufacturers using a level playing field. SunPower had won the exemption it produced abroad due to the high-efficiency character of its products.
Werner will still continue to run SunPower, based in San Jose, and hold onto a small panel factory in Oregon.
Jeff Waters, that leads SunPower&rsquotechnologies business unit, will become CEO of Maxeon, after the is complete in the second quarter.
SunPower panels are known to be the most effective in the industry, able to convert more of the energy in sunlight. That could present its panels an edge for space-constrained installations like rooftops, even though they are also more costly than rivals’ products.
Tianjin Zhonghuan Semiconductor Co. will have nearly 29% of Maxeon after its equity investment, and existing SunPower shareholders will have the remainder. SunPower is majority-owned by the French oil giant Total SA. Shares climbed 1.2percent to close at $8.47 at New York Monday.
In the early days of renewable energy, SunPower and First Solar both constructed and marketed some of the largest U.S. solar cells. That approach was created in part by a demand for the board producers to create niches for their products, according to Pavel Molchanov, an analyst with Raymond James & Associates.
Renewables have become more prevalent since , and the price for solar panels has plunged. Organizations are opting to concentrate in an effort to discover an edge over their rivals. “The one-stop-shop of 10 years ago is mostly in the mirror,” Molchanov explained.
First Solar sees that edge in manufacturing. It rolled out its Series 6 merchandise and just started production in a new $1 billion factory in Ohio. In September, the company said that it would move away from building power plants.
SunPower said it will focus on installing commercial rooftop solar jobs and residential. It’s one of the biggest providers, competing against Sunrun Inc., Vivint Solar Inc along with Tesla Inc.’s electricity unit. That industry is predicted to develop after a California law that requires panels takes effect in January, and Werner said he’s deals.
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