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SunPower Adds to Package for Complete Solar Systems with SolarBridge Acquisition

Nov. 21, 2014

Solar manufacturer and developer SunPower, San Jose, Calif., added another critical piece to its package last week with the acquisition of SolarBridge Technologies, Austin, Texas, a manufacturer of integrated microinverters. The acquisition moves SunPower closer to being able to offer a complete plug-and-play solar power system that can be used in residential and commercial applications by those who embrace the promise of distributed generation, a move that promises to reshape the electrical market substantially over the coming years.

SunPower said in a release that it will utilize SolarBridge’s microinverter technology, which converts direct current (DC) generated by a single solar photovoltaic panel into alternating current (AC), to develop next-generation microinverters for use with SunPower’s high-efficiency solar panels. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Based in Austin, Texas, SolarBridge has developed a reliable microinverter solution for roof-ready AC 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.

“SunPower’s acquisition of SolarBridge and its high performance microinverter technology will allow us to develop a differentiated product specifically optimized for our high efficiency solar panels,” said Tom Werner, SunPower president and CEO.  “This is the beginning of integrating electronics into our world-class solar panel technology. In this case, the combined result will provide our residential customers with an elegant, reliable and complete solution that fits their home specifications, including system design flexibility, ease of installation and maintenance and improved overall aesthetics.”

With AC solar panels, the power generated by the solar system is optimized and monitored at each solar panel to ensure maximum energy production. This integrated system provides design and installation flexibility, and is suited for a wide variety of system and rooftop configurations.  AC solar panels also help reduce soft costs associated with residential photovoltaic solar installations, including labor, permitting and customer acquisition costs, which represent a significant portion of the overall system cost, SunPower said in the release. SolarBridge microinverter technology offers a design life in excess of 25 years.

SunPower separately announced plans to triple its production of solar modules with a new fabrication facility and the expansion of existing facilities.

The company said it expects revenue of $2.4 billion to $2.6 billion in 2015, with gross margins of 21% to 23%, capital expenditures of $300 million to $350 million and gigawatts (GW) produced in the range of 1.3 GW to 1.4 GW.

In a deal announced in June, SunPower will partner with nationwide builder KB Homes to install energy storage solutions at certain KB homes in California in a pilot project that expands the companies’ partnership offering solar power systems for homes in 150 KB developments.