SunPower is all about being a stellar provider of solar. The company makes solar panels and systems under the SunPower, SunTile, and PowerGuard brands, among others. It sells these products to dealers, distributors, and system integrators for use by residential, commercial, government, and utility customers around the world. SunPower generates some 40% its sales from large-scale solar projects (solar farms for utility companies to offer alternative energy). While the company has offices across the globe, nearly 70 cents of every revenue dollar comes from customers in the Americas. SunPower is majority owned by France's TOTAL SA.
French energy giant TOTAL bought a controlling stake in SunPower for about $1.4 billion in 2011 to boost its presence in the renewable energy sector. SunPower benefited from access to cash and credit (the deal included a $1 billion line of credit) that allows it to accelerate plans to expand solar panel production and develop large-scale solar farms. TOTAL has since increased its stake from 60% to 66%.
Residential solar power installations were a big part of SunPower's business in 2016 (ended January), accounting for 41% of revenue. That's the same percentage provided by the big power plant customers, who buy large-scale projects to generate electricity for the grid. Commercial customers -- business offices, government, and schools-- account for the remaining 18% of revenue.
SunPower and First Solar have a joint venture, 8point3 Energy Partners. It was created to own, operate, and acquire solar energy generation projects. SunPower plans to sell solar energy generating assets, including utility-scale solar power plants, commercial solar projects, and portfolios of residential solar power systems, to 8Point3. In 2015 8Point3 went public.
California-based SunPower generated about 70% of its sales in the Americas (primarily the US) in 2016 with Japan accounting for 12%.
The company has offices in Australia, England, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, South Africa, Spain, and the US. Outside the US, it has projects in Chile, Germany, and South Africa.
Sales and Marketing
The company' large-scale solar products and systems are sold through its own direct sales force; solar equipment for residential and commercial customers is also sold directly, as well as through a network of some 1,800 dealers. SunPower has sales personnel and dealers in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and the US.
SunPower's biggest customer is MidAmerican Energy Holdings, which accounts for 14% of sales.
The company doubled its advertising budget to about $24 million in 2015 from 2014.
SunPower's revenue dropped 48% in 2016 (ended January) to $1.5 billion from 2015. The company deferred recognition of revenue or profit on the sale of projects involving real estate to 8point3 Energy Partners because of accounting treatment on the 8point3 Energy Partners end. The reduced revenue also resulted from the 2014 completion of some large-scale solar power systems. The reduction of a feed-in tariff in Japan reduced solar power demand in the country, which affected SunPower's three segments.
SunPower's bottom lined dimmed to a loss of $187 million in 2016 from a $245 million profit in 2015 on the lower sales.
SunPower is looking to grow in the consumer market with systems that are easier to install. Through an acquisition, the company obtained an architecture that enables direct installation of solar panels without having to mount additional components on a structure. SunPower's InvisiMount product comes with pre-assembled parts and integrated grounding reducing installation time.
The company wants to spread solar energy to less developed markets overseas with particular interest in Chile, Mexico, Turkey, South Africa, China, and the Middle East. It is also expanding its global components sales capabilities and international commercial opportunities.
SunPower in 2015 introduced its Helix product for its commercial segment and is developing working on a new product offering for the residential market in 2016.\
Mergers and Acquisitions
SunPower bought SolarBridge Technologies in 2014, obtaining technologies that make installation was easier process. Austin, Texas-based SolarBridge has developed a microinverter for roof-ready alternating current solar panels. Panels with these factory-integrated microinverters can be directly installed, eliminating the need to mount or assemble additional components on the roof or the side of a home.
In 2015, SunPower acquired 1.5 gigawatts of US solar power plant development assets from Australia-based Infigen Energy. That gives SunPower ownership of projects in across 11 states.