SunPower in 70MW China CPV deal

SunPower has sold the first 70MW batch of cells for a series of concentrated PV (CPV) plants in Inner Mongolia, China, nearly a year and a half after establishing a joint-venture related to the projects.

SunPower, the second largest US-based PV manufacturer, in late 2012 formed the JV with a trio of Chinese partners with the intention of manufacturing and deploying its proprietary “C7” concentrator technology in China.

The 70MW batch – called “the first step in our aggressive efforts to break into the Chinese market” by SunPower chief executive Tom Werner – will be installed at two C7 projects going up in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, totaling 20MW and 100MW respectively.

Both are due on line in 2015.

SunPower’s C7 technology employs a single-axis tracker and rows of parabolic mirrors that reflect sunlight onto the company’s highly efficient third-generation PV cells, thereby reducing the number of cells that need to be installed.

The California-based company claims that just 70MW of its 24.5% Maxeon cells used in conjunction with its C7 Tracker technology gives the equivalent output to 400MW of regular PV capacity.

SunPower has committed to investing $15m into the Chinese C7 joint venture, alongside local partners Tianjin Zhonghuan Semiconductor, Inner Mongolia Power and Hohhot Jiqiao City Development – for a 25% stake in the business.

The joint venture has already built a 300MW factory for its C7 receivers in Hohhot, with a single 50MW production line currently in operation.

CPV is “on the verge of a breakthrough in growth”, market researcher IHS recently claimed, with the global market set to hit 1.3GW in the year 2020, compared to the 160MW put up last year.

Among other key developments, France’s Soitec recently reached the halfway mark at its 44MW Touwsrivier project in South Africa.