SunPower has primed the market for further international project announcements in 2014, piggybacking on its recent successes in places like South Africa and Chile, as the US utility-scale PV market looks set to shrink in the medium term.
which yesterday confirmed a gross margin of 19.6% for the whole of 2013 on a
net profit of $95.6m, has been a major beneficiary of the booming utility-scale
market in the US, which has been driven by a handful of western states racing
to meet their own renewables targets.
months California-based SunPower achieved full commercial operation of its
250MWac California Valley Solar Ranch project, and brought on line the first
57MW block of the 579MWac Solar Star (formerly Antelope Valley) project it is
building for MidAmerican Solar.
states like California on track to meet their mid-term targets, the US solar
market is expected to shift towards rooftops and smaller ground-mount arrays,
with a growing geographic spread.
utility-scale US market may revive again a few years down the road as the
economics of PV continue to improve, SunPower believes.
out its expectations for 2014, SunPower heavily emphasised its growing
strengths in the US rooftop market – where it is already a leader – and as a
power-plant developer in emerging markets around the world, the latter position
bolstered significantly by its association with French energy giant Total.
a majority stake in New York-listed SunPower.
competes directly with the likes of SolarCity in the US residential
solar-leasing market, and says it has signed up some 20,500 customers to date.
It recently announced a $220m financial package with Bank of America, freeing
up the financial constraints its residential leasing business felt during 2013.
US, SunPower won an 86MW project in South Africa’s most recent solar tender,
and secured financing for a 70MW merchant plant in Chile.
further international project announcements this year,” says chief executive
Tom Werner, noting there will be a “continued focus on the Middle East”.
SunPower acquired Greenbotics, a California-based maker of robots that clean
dusty PV panels, further underscoring its ambitions for desert regions in
regions like the Middle East and Latin America.
also been critical to SunPower’s turnaround, with the company now selling large
amounts of modules into both the utility-scale segment and – thanks to a
partnership with Toshiba – the residential rooftop market.
full-year 2013 profit follows a net loss of $352m in 2012.
enormous turnaround in profitability came despite the company recording just a
3.7% increase in revenues, to $2.51bn, underscoring the success of the
company’s cost-reduction efforts.
SunPower expects revenues of $2.45bn-$2.65bn in
2014 on module sales of 1.15GW-1.25GW – a more conservative set of estimates
than analysts had been hoping for. As a result, shares in the company slid
modestly in pre-market trading.
company’s shares have nevertheless tripled over the past year, leaving it with
a slightly higher market valuation than rival US PV giant First Solar.
noted that energy storage will be a “particular area of focus” for SunPower in
the years ahead. The company has initiated a number of pilot energy-storage
programmes, he says, with more details to be revealed later this year.