US Bancorp backs SunPower push

US Bancorp, the fifth-largest American bank by assets, has agreed to back a $100m push by SunPower into its solar-leasing programme, as investors continue warming to sophisticated financing schemes for residential PV systems in the US.

The two companies did not divulge the exact nature of the deal, aside from saying they have both invested in the roll-out. It is the first time they have partnered on such an arrangement.

SunPower’s leasing programme is already available in nine states ranging from Vermont to Hawaii, and like similar offerings from other providers, allows eligible homeowners to install PV panels on their rooftops at no upfront cost.

So far the fast-expanding US solar-leasing game has been dominated by independent players who source modules from a variety of suppliers, and thus benefit from ever-falling prices.

Earlier this month Sungevity, a leading US solar-leasing firm, announced it had pinned down $85m of new project financing as it looks to keep up with rival SolarCity, which launched a high-profile initial public offering last month.

But the space also hold potential for module makers like SunPower, many of which have aggressively pushed into project development to ensure a steady source of demand in order to prevent the utilisation rate at their factories from dipping too low. 

Shares in SunPower hardly budged on the news in early trading today. However, they have largely clung to the immense gains they made in early January, when SunPower announced it had sold two mega-PV projects totaling 579MW to MidAmerican Solar, part of US billionaire Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate.