SunPower and French oil giant Total, its majority shareholder, are on the hunt for utility-scale PV projects in Japan, with the aim of taking equity stakes in projects struggling to secure finance, the company tells Recharge.
SunPower is already one of the most successful foreign
module suppliers in Japan, having historically focused on the residential
sector. Roughly one-quarter of the 1.1GW of modules it produced last year were
sold in Japan.
But the California-based company is looking to develop
other revenue streams in the Japanese market, piggybacking on its broad US
experience in areas ranging from EPC services to solar-leasing.
“We have initiated co-development [in Japan] with our
majority shareholder,” says Zach Struyk, SunPower’s sales director in East Asia
for the utility and commercial sectors. “We’re going and looking for Japanese
developers with projects in various stages of maturity.”
“Given the talents of Total at arranging project finance
and the size of the company, we think we’ll get some projects financed that
might not otherwise be.”
SunPower will typically look to buy 50% stakes in the
projects, with the original developers still on board, Struyk says.
“We’re also considering doing EPC work” in Japan, he adds,
which would be “independent but related to” the company’s own development
SunPower, which competes with the likes of SolarCity in the
booming US solar-lease market, is also considering exporting that model to
Japan, says Takashi Sugihara, director of strategic accounts at SunPower Japan.
Last month SunPower announced a new $220m war chest
provided by Bank of America Merrill Lynch to finance its residential
solar-lease business in the US.
“We’re studying whether [solar leasing] is feasible in the
Japanese market,” Sugihara says. “It’s only natural that we want to enjoy the
success we’ve had in the US in Japan as well.”