SunPower makes $170 million deal for solar factory

The proposed Tesla-SolarCity merger isn’t the only corporate dealing in the solar industry.

SunPower announced Monday that the company would spend $170 million to buy a solar cell manufacturing plant in Malaysia. The San Jose-based solar company is buying out its partner AUO in the joint venture. The factory provides SunPower with high-performing cells at an 800 megawatt factory in Melaka, the company said.

“The solar industry expects continued growth for the foreseeable future, as solar power becomes increasingly cost effective in many countries,” SunPower president and CEO Tom Werner said in a statement.

Werner added that the acquisition gives the company “sole control over our highest performing solar cell fab and will allow for technology upgrades and further expansion of our high efficiency solar cell technology as market conditions warrant.”

SunPower and AUO started the joint venture in 2010. SunPower will pay out the purchase price over four years. Baird senior analyst Ben Kallo wrote the acquisition will provide SunPower with additional cell capacity while having little effect on its balance sheet.

The Street reports that the move could help SunPower compete with lower-cost manufacturing in China.

SunPower also announced Tuesday a new platform for automating large-scale solar power plants. The Oasis hardware and software system will integrate robots and drones into the operation of utility-scale power plants. The company said the platform will be used in projects beginning construction this year in North America and China.

The news helped boost SunPower stock about 4 percent Tuesday. The company has seen its share price drop nearly 75 percent this year.

Photo: Tom Werner, the CEO of San Jose-based SunPower. (Josie Lepe/Bay Area News Group)


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