SunPower seeks tariff waiver, cites plan for U.S. expansion

SunPower seeks tariff waiver, cites plan for U.S. expansion

(Reuters) – SunPower Corp ( SPWR.O ) on Friday asked the Trump administration to exempt a segment of its solar panel imports from new tariffs, saying the move would allow it to reverse proposed investment cuts and ease plans to expand U.S. panel manufacturing. […]

The request by SunPower, which is majority owned by France’s Total SA (TOTF.PA), marks the first attempt by a major U.S. solar company to sidestep a controversial 30 percent levy on imported panels announced by President Donald Trump in January.

Trump had said the tariff would boost U.S. manufacturing, but many in the industry have warned of higher costs and thousands of layoffs in the much-bigger installation end of the solar industry.

“We understand the administration’s goals,” SunPower Chief Executive Tom Werner said in an interview. “We think we can contribute positively to those objectives.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

It could not determined which other companies had filed such requests with the U.S. Trade Representative by the deadline on Friday.

SunPower’s request covers only its imported premium, high-efficiency panels, and not the less efficient and cheaper “P-series” panels which dominate the market, Werner said.

San Jose, California-based SunPower manufactures most of its panels in the Philippines and Mexico.

Werner said an exemption would allow SunPower to “materially” reverse a decision made immediately after the tariff announcement in January to cancel a $20 million investment in its next-generation cell technology that would have created hundreds of jobs in California and Texas . SunPower last month said the tariff would force it to cut 150 to 250 non-manufacturing jobs.

The cheaper P-series panels could be made at a new U.S. facility that the company would build, probably in the Southwest, Werner said, noting that SunPower was in the process of narrowing down its options to two locations.

“This is not hypothetical. We’re ready to make this happen,” he said, adding that an exemption for premium panel imports would “facilitate” this plan.

A big investment in solar panel manufacturing as a result of the tariff would mark a win for the Trump administration, but so far the industry remains focused on the fate of the installation business, which employs tens of thousands of people.

Only China’s JinkoSolar (JKS.N) has said it plans to build a U.S. manufacturing facility, and SolarWorld, one of the panel producers behind the trade case that resulted in the tariffs, has said it will hire 200 employees this year.

Suniva, the bankrupt company that first petitioned the administration in April to impose tariffs, has not publicly outlined its plans.

The exemption request will undergo a 30-day comment period before the U.S. Trade Representative makes a decision.

SunPower: Tariff Exclusion Would Free Funds to Open New US Solar Manufacturing Facilities

SunPower: Tariff Exclusion Would Free Funds to Open New US Solar Manufacturing Facilities

SunPower Corporation would like an exclusion from the 30% Solar Tariff’s The President has imposed on imported Solar Panels and if they receive that exclusion, they plan to build a manufacturing plant in the U.S. […]

Solar industry stakeholders filed applications with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative last week seeking exclusions from the Trump administration’s 30 percent tariff on imported solar products.

Requests were due Friday night and a total of 55 comments were ultimately received, according to the USTR docket.

California-based Solaria Corporation, Korea’s Hanwha Q Cells and EU ProSun, a group representing 80 percent of European solar cell and module production, were among those to submit requests. Inverter manufacturers Enphase and SolarEdge also filed comments seeking exemptions for their integrated solar module products.

U.S. solar firm SunPower — one of the companies hardest hit by the trade action — made its case too. The company specifically requested to have its Copper-Plated IBC Cells and Copper-Plated Modules excluded from the safeguard measures Trump placed on imported crystalline-silicon (CSPV) solar cells and modules.

“Copper-plated, interdigitated back contact (IBC) technology is fundamentally different than other solar technologies, whether silicon-based or otherwise,” the filing states.

In the absence of a tariff exclusion, SunPower said it will have to follow through on layoffs and forego investments in U.S.-based solar manufacturing.

“We are a leading innovator that has made significant research and development investments in the U.S. and we have helped to stimulate the American economy with many thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity,” the filing states. “While the tariffs have contributed to layoffs for SunPower, those job losses would be materially reversed and manufacturing and research and development jobs added, should we receive an exclusion.”

“In particular, an exclusion for both our Copper-Plated IBC Cells and Copper-Plated Modules would free SunPower to devote substantial resources that otherwise would be dedicated to satisfying its additional customs duty liability to investments in next-generation research and development in the United States, as well as the establishment of U.S. manufacturing facilities dedicated to SunPower’s P-Series modules, for which an exclusion is not being requested.”

“The 201 process motivated us”

SunPower’s decision to establish new module manufacturing operations in the U.S. stems from the recent Section 201 trade case, said CEO Tom Werner.

“We’re always evaluating the state of manufacturing and where to manufacture, and the 201 process motivated us to further evaluate doing P-Series manufacturing in the U.S.,” he said in an interview.

P-Series panels are based on the technology SunPower acquired through Cogenra. The company claims the shingled design eliminates many of the reliability challenges associated with traditional front contact panels, while offering superior power and efficiency.

The U.S. is a well-suited location to manufacture these solar panels “because the equipment we acquired from Cogenra is unique and highly automated and configurable to satisfy local demand in a flexible way,” Werner said.

He added that opening new U.S.-manufacturing facilities — should SunPower be exempt from the Trump administration’s safeguard measures — would create jobs “on the order of hundreds.” Likely in the low hundreds, he said, but couldn’t commit to a specific number at this point.

Meanwhile, one of the few companies to announce new or expanded U.S.-based manufacturing in the wake of Trump’s tariff decision, Jinko Solar, has dramatically scaled-down its plans. The Chinese company was initially planning to invest $410 million on a solar module assembly and distribution facility in Jacksonville, Florida and create 800 jobs in the process — which was the most promising employment news to stem from the trade case. Under a new agreement, however, Jinko will invest a total of $50.5 million and create just 200 jobs.

SunPower argues its case

SunPower: Tariff Exclusion Would Free Funds to Open New US Solar Manufacturing Facilities

SunPower currently produces most of its solar panels in Asia and Mexico. But the company noted that its copper-plated, IBC technology was conceived and developed in the U.S. and claimed that the patents and manufacturing processes associated with it are considered American assets.

Trade actions disproportionately affect SunPower’s products because its technology comes at a higher price, which stems from higher-cost raw materials and considerably more complex manufacturing procedures. At the same time, because these products have a unique design and distinct features, they’re not directly competitive with conventional CSPV solar products, SunPower argued.

Solar modules made with copper-plated, IBC technology offer superior efficiency, superior durability, better aesthetics and better overall performance, according to SunPower. The technology is also available from only one source, and because of that a safeguard exclusion would be easy to administer.

Another one of SunPower’s key arguments is that granting an exclusion request furthers the objectives of the safeguard measures, while addressing unintended negative consequences. The Section 201 case, like previous U.S. solar trade cases, targeted artificially-low-priced solar products — based on the conventional solar technology employed by petitioners in those cases — that were being dumped in the U.S. market in increasing amounts.

“Solar products based on copper-plated, IBC comprise a small percentage of total solar imports, have not been imported in materially increasing quantities, have not benefited from unfair trade practices, and have struggled to compete against products targeted in past trade actions,” SunPower stated.

Imports of copper-plated IBC products have been limited over the past few years, while imports of front-contact CSPV products surged. If excluded, SunPower IBC modules will continue to comprise a small share of total solar imports and “would not be a material threat to the domestic solar manufacturing industry.”

SunPower requested that exclusions for its products be applied retroactively to February 7, the effective date of the safeguard measures, and that U.S. Customs and Border Protection refund any tariffs paid on SunPower’s copper-plated products as a consequence of the trade action.

A decision on exemptions could come as early as late May, following a 30-day public comment period.

Sunpower Leads US Commercial Solar Industry

Sunpower, Tesla, NRG Lead US Commercial Solar Industry, Reveals GTM Research

New analysis of the US solar market by GTM Research has revealed that SunPower leads the way as the foremost US commercial solar provider, followed by Tesla and NRG. GTM Research’s Senior Analyst for Distributed Solar, Michelle Davis, published a free research note last week which looked at the […]

GTM Research’s Senior Analyst for Distributed Solar, Michelle Davis, published a free research note last week which looked at the data from the top engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) providers, project developers, asset owners, and other leading companies in the US commercial solar market, resulting in a ranking of the top players in the downstream US commercial solar industry.

The top US commercial solar deployments list is made up of 15 companies which participated in the market in 2017 and were involved in half of all commercial solar capacity as either a developer, EPC, financier, and/or long-term owner, and were led by solar manufacturer SunPower, followed by Tesla and NRG.

Total US Commercial Solar Deployments in 2017

Sunpower Leads US Commercial Solar Industry

SunPower leads the solar insustry by almost double it’s closest competitors, Tesla and NRG

According to Davis, the commercial solar segment “is the most fragmented segment of the US solar market, with numerous companies involved in any single project.”

SunPower has such a healthy lead at 231.2 megawatts (MW) compared to Tesla’s 156 MW and NRG’s 145.7 MW, thanks in large part to its direct installation business as well as its channel partner business, with the latter representing the main source of the company’s 2017 growth. And though SunPower is not involved in the actual installation of its commercial channel partners’ development, it is nevertheless involved in numerous steps through the development cycle including customer lead generation, marketing, financing, and project design. SunPower, therefore, manages to lead the way by being involved in multiple segments of the commercial solar market.

Looking at those companies below SunPower, the data shows that “there is a clear competitive advantage for developers who also own their projects.” For example, Tesla owns 90% of its commercial projects, and in 2017 its installations increased by 2% despite downturns across its residential solar business.

“In a fragmented sector, having more control over multiple steps in the value chain appears to be a winning strategy,” explained Michelle Davis. “As long as developer-owners continue to benefit from this strategy, they will stay at the top of the commercial market.”

 

SunPower Helix Storage Maximizes Value of Solar and Storage for Commercial Customers

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SunPower Helix

SunPower Helix Innovative Software Control Platform Intelligently Manages Solar and Battery Storage to Help Lower Electricity Costs

SAN JOSE, Calif., March 1, 2018 /PRNewswire/ —

SunPower Helix  Storage, a new storage solution that combines energy storage with intelligent software to manage electricity costs for commercial solar customers. An increase in manufacturing capacity and economies of scale have caused tremendous advancements in energy storage with costs dropping 73 percent since 2010 according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Integrating with SunPower’s existing commercial solar solutions, Helix Storage significantly reduces electricity expenses for customers while increasing the benefits of solar.

“SunPower has a decade of experience monitoring nearly 1.7 gigawatts of commercial solar projects to best understand how they perform, giving us a unique advantage when maximizing the value of a complete solar-plus-storage solution,” said Norm Taffe, SunPower executive vice president, products. “We’ve used these key learnings to develop an intuitive, reliable storage offering for our commercial customers, further maximizing the benefits of SunPower’s roof, carport and ground-mount solar solutions.”

The integrated Helix Storage solution from SunPower includes:

  • An intelligent software control system that predicts energy consumption from the grid and automatically dispatches stored solar electricity from the battery to lower demand charges
  • A best-in-class battery technology that is safe, reliable, and versatile to meet real-world conditions
  • Turn-key services to design, install, operate and maintain systems, ensuring a seamless customer experience

“With Helix Storage, SunPower continues to raise the bar with innovative energy solutions for its customers,” Taffe continued. “We’ve invested heavily in growing SunPower’s software capabilities to develop a more robust and flexible control platform, and are now applying that to manage solar and storage. Helix Storage uses predictive analytics to dispatch stored solar energy at times when electricity costs are highest, maximizing savings for our customers.”

Helix Storage is an extension of SunPower’s Helix solar offering, the world’s first turnkey commercial solar solution, available since 2015.

With more than 30 years of solar experience, SunPower has delivered reliable solar and storage solutions to business, government, and education customers throughout the U.S. For more on SunPower’s storage solutions, visit www.sunpower.com/storage.

About SunPower
As one of the world’s most innovative and sustainable energy companies, SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR) provides a diverse group of customers with complete solar solutions and services. Residential customers, businesses, governments, schools and utilities around the globe rely on SunPower’s more than 30 years of proven experience. From the first flip of the switch, SunPower delivers maximum value and superb performance throughout the long life of every solar system. Headquartered in Silicon Valley, SunPower has dedicated, customer-focused employees in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America. For more information about how SunPower is changing the way our world is powered, visit www.sunpower.com.

FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This press release contains “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including, but not limited to, statements regarding projected product performance and expected cost savings. These forward-looking statements are based on our current assumptions, expectations and beliefs and involve substantial risks and uncertainties that may cause results, performance or achievement to materially differ from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause or contribute to such differences include, but are not limited to: regulatory changes and the availability of economic incentives promoting use of solar energy, challenges inherent in constructing and maintaining certain of our large projects, competition and market conditions in the solar and general energy industry, and fluctuations or declines in the performance of our solar panels and other products and solutions. A detailed discussion of these factors and other risks that affect our business is included in filings we make with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from time to time, including our most recent report on Form 10-K, particularly under the heading “Risk Factors.” Copies of these filings are available online from the SEC or on the SEC Filings section of our Investor Relations website at investors.sunpowercorp.com. All forward-looking statements in this press release are based on information currently available to us, and we assume no obligation to update these forward-looking statements in light of new information or future events.

© 2018 SunPower Corporation. All Rights Reserved. SUNPOWER, the SUNPOWER logo and HELIX are trademarks or registered trademarks of SunPower Corporation in the U.S. and other countries as well.

 

SOURCE SunPower Corp.

Related Links

https://www.sunpower.com
http://newsroom.sunpower.com

SunPower divests NYC portfolio to Green Street Power Partners LLC

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sunpower sells project to Green Street Power Partners in NYC

STAMFORD, Conn., March 5, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Green Street Power Partners, LLC (GSPP) announced it has purchased a portfolio of community solar projects all in Con Edison’s service zone, from SunPower. A 918-kilowatt rooftop project in Maspeth, Queens, will be the first completed featuring SunPower® Helix™ technology. The project was originated by SunPower dealer Accord Power, who is also providing development and engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) services. Construction is set to begin April 1 and expected to be complete by late spring 2018. GSPP will own the system, highlighting the company’s increased focus on project acquisition.

“This project, along with the additional projects we are currently acquiring, will have a profound impact on our company while helping us achieve our goals of being a leader in community solar, and commercial and industrial solar markets,” said Scott Kerner, Co-Founder and CEO. “We are also thrilled about the next chapter in our collaboration with SunPower and its network of dealers, and are hopeful that these projects will be the first of many.”

The SunPower® Helix™ advanced technology which will be used for this 918-kilowatt rooftop solar system is expected to offset approximately 20,496 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the five boroughs over the lifetime of the system, the equivalent of preserving 167 acres of forest. The project will provide power to more than 150 homes in New York City.

“We are thrilled that Green Street Power Partners is taking a leadership position in helping to encourage development of reliable solar energy projects like this one featuring SunPower’s leading-edge solar technology,” said Nam Nguyen, SunPower executive vice president, commercial. “We look forward to building on this shared success in the future, bringing value to even more customers.”

About Green Street Power Partners, LLC

Headquartered in Stamford, CT, Green Street Power Partners (GSPP) finances, develops, owns and operates, 8MW of solar energy systems for businesses throughout the northeast. GSPP continues to experience rapid growth with 32 MW of commercial and community solar projects under construction. As they expand their solar coverage, GSPP consistently provides the best available solar technology coupled with an unwavering commitment to customer service. To find out more about Green Street Power Partners, visit greenstreetsolarpower.com.

 

SOURCE SunPower Corp.

How SunPower’s Making Itself Shine

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The biggest risks facing SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ: SPWR) in 2017 and early 2018 were the company’s bloated balance sheet and continuing losses. At the beginning of 2017, the company had $1.6 billion in debt and a $300 million convertible debt maturity looming in 2018, and was affected by uncertainty […]

SunPower’s sale of 8point3 Energy Partners (NASDAQ: CAFD) and the announced sale of residential-lease assets will simplify and strengthen the balance sheet. Here’s a look at how the company will look after these major sales.

SunPower’s transformative asset sales

There are two big asset sales that SunPower has in the works right now. The first is the sale of 8point3 Energy Partners, which will net SunPower about $350 million in cash when completed sometime this summer. The other is the sale of 45,000 residential leases, which will bring in about $200 million of cash proceeds and allow the company to sell or deconsolidate $436 million of debt currently on the balance sheet.

With the 2017 year-end balance sheet as a starting point, here is an estimate of what the balance sheet would look following the asset sale:

By summer, SunPower could be nearly net-debt-free, if it doesn’t increase spending in any other way. That means that based on 2017 adjusted EBTIDA of $189.7 million and a market cap of $1.07 billion, the company has an enterprise value/EBITDA of just 6.3.

The EV/EBITDA ratio is only a snapshot of value, and we need to consider that adjusted EBITDA fell 39.2% in 2017 and that management only guided to “positive EBITDA” in 2018. But if SunPower’s business shows improvement, the stock could be a good value after asset sales are completed.

Opening up options for the future

The numbers above are rough estimates and may vary depending on what SunPower chooses to do with its cash. But they imply that options will start opening up.

One move SunPower could make in 2018 is to increase manufacturing in areas where it’s cost effective to do so. P-Series solar panel production is already growing at a China joint venture from about 700 megawatts of capacity today to as much as 5 gigawatts in the next five years. The company also has a 641,000-square-foot facility in the Philippines that could serve as an expansion hub for next-generation solar cell manufacturing. Weakness in the balance sheet and a two-year buildout timeline made expansion difficult over the past year, but now could be the time to get aggressive in the high end of the market.

Another intriguing option: expanding P-Series manufacturing in its Mexico plant, in the booming Middle East market, or even in the U.S. Building capacity in P-Series costs only $0.05 to $0.10 per watt, and production uses commodity cells from other manufacturers, so this could be a good growth option in the popular power-plant market.

The other growth opportunity I expect SunPower to push in 2018 is energy storage. The company says it has a $60 million pipeline of U.S. commercial-storage projects, but it can make that business much bigger. Storage is starting to be economical with residential solar and can be a standard with commercial solar installations. Investing in both capabilities, such as software, and manufacturing capacity will be key in 2018.

A cloud is lifting over SunPower

As the balance sheet becomes less of a risk for SunPower, it should free up the company to invest in growth opportunities and allow investors to see the underlying value in the company. If SunPower can increase its adjusted EBITDA, I think the stock could be a big winner for investors, so keep an eye on the company’s execution in 2018.

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Travis Hoium owns shares of 8point3 Energy Partners and SunPower. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

SunPower Completes 10-Megawatt Solar and 1-Megawatt Storage Project at U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal

SunPower Completes 10-Megawatt Solar and 1-Megawatt Storage Project at U.S. Army's Redstone Arsenal

SAN JOSE, Calif., Feb. 26, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — SunPower Completes 10-Megawatt Solar project for the US Army

At a ribbon-cutting event recently, Redstone Arsenal and SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWR ) marked the commencement of operations for a 10-megawatt solar photovoltaic and 1-megawatt energy storage system at the U.S. Army post in Alabama.   […]

“Through innovative collaboration between the Army, Team Redstone, and industry partners, we’ve cost-effectively built a reliable, home-grown renewable energy project that is expected to deliver savings for decades, allowing us to invest more resources in protecting the nation and those we serve,” said Lt. Gen. Edward M. Daly, Senior Commander, Redstone Arsenal.

This project is a collaboration between the U.S. Army Office of Energy Initiatives, Redstone Arsenal, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and SunPower, and features a SunPower® Oasis® Power Plant system. The fully integrated, modular solar power block is engineered and built for compatibility with a future micro-grid, and is paired with storage to reduce peak power-related demand charges for Redstone Arsenal.

“Demand for solar-and-storage technology continues to rise, delivering significant savings to customers with high electricity demand, like the U.S. military,” said Nam Nguyen, SunPower executive vice president. “We congratulate the Army and Redstone Arsenal for seeing the value in a resilient energy project from SunPower that will help lower operational costs and free up more funds to support their mission.”

The Army is purchasing 100 percent of the electricity generated by the project through a 27-year power purchase agreement (PPA) at rates competitive with traditional energy sources. Regions Bank is providing the capital required for the solar and storage project, eliminating the need for capital expenditure by the Army. Cornerstone Financial Advisors, LLC served as financial advisor to Region Bank on this transaction.

“Regions Bank supports the development of innovative clean energy generation by providing efficient financing solutions that take into consideration advances in technology, such as this project’s energy storage system,” said Frank Conley, Senior Vice President Solar Finance for Regions. “We are very pleased to team up with SunPower on the Redstone Arsenal solar facility and have a role in reducing the Army’s electricity costs while enhancing its clean energy utilization.”

SunPower is a trusted solar advisor to federal government agencies such as the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense, having deployed solar power systems at military facilities nationwide including more than 28 megawatts at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, 13.78 megawatts at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake and 28 megawatts at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, as well as 5.6 megawatts at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

For more information on how solar and storage solutions can benefit federal agencies, read SunPower’s blog post here or visit www.sunpower.com/government.

About SunPower
As one of the world’s most innovative and sustainable energy companies, SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR) provides a diverse group of customers with complete solar solutions and services. Residential customers, businesses, governments, schools and utilities around the globe rely on SunPower’s more than 30 years of proven experience. From the first flip of the switch, SunPower delivers maximum value and superb performance throughout the long life of every solar system. Headquartered in Silicon Valley, SunPower has dedicated, customer-focused employees in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America. For more information about how SunPower is changing the way our world is powered, visit www.sunpower.com.

SunPower’s Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including, but not limited to, statements regarding projected energy output, expected cost savings, and project and financing plans. These forward-looking statements are based on our current assumptions, expectations, and beliefs and involve substantial risks and uncertainties that may cause results, performance, or achievement to materially differ from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause or contribute to such differences include, but are not limited to: regulatory changes and the availability of economic incentives promoting use of solar energy, challenges inherent in constructing and maintaining certain of our large projects, competition and market conditions in the solar and general energy industry, and fluctuations or declines in the performance of our solar panels and other products and solutions. A detailed discussion of these factors and other risks that affect our business is included in filings we make with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from time to time, including our most recent report on Form 10-K, particularly under the heading “Risk Factors.” A copy of this filing is available online from the SEC or on the SEC Filings section of our Investor Relations website at investors.sunpowercorp.com. All forward-looking statements in this press release are based on information currently available to us, and we assume no obligation to update these forward-looking statements in light of new information or future events.

©2018 SunPower Corporation. All Rights Reserved. SUNPOWER, the SUNPOWER logo, and OASIS are registered trademarks of SunPower Corporation in the U.S. and other countries as well.

SOURCE SunPower Corp.

Why SunPower Corporation’s $568.7 Million Loss Isn’t as Bad as It Seems

Why SunPower Corporation's $568.7 Million Loss Isn't as Bad as It Seems

Solar tariffs have been the headline story for SunPower Corporation ( NASDAQ:SPWR ) for almost a year now. The Trump administration’s 30% tariff on solar imports will impact SunPower more than most solar manufacturers because of its premium-priced products and focus on the U.S. as an end market. What […]

What fourth-quarter 2017 results told us was a lot more about SunPower’s strategy for the future than the impact of tariffs. In fact, the decision to focus more on component sales could have a much bigger impact on the company’s finances over the next year. And it’s those underlying results that are more important than the accounting that drove a $568.7 million loss in the quarter.

Fourth-quarter headline numbers

On a non-GAAP basis, fourth-quarter revenue was $824 million, gross margin was 11.9%, and net income was $35.8 million, or $0.25 per share. Results were in line with guidance for $800 million to $850 million of revenue and gross margin of 13% to 15% (once you account for one-time margin costs related to tariffs).

The one-time costs were related to bringing solar panels into the U.S. to avoid tariffs. Management said they have between three-and-a-half and six months of solar panels to fill U.S. demand, which means the company could last into the summer with tariff-free solar panels.

There’s also a process to evaluate products that should be excluded from tariffs, which SunPower will seek. Management said they expect to complete the exclusion application in the next month, and after a 30-day public comment period, the decision should come soon after.

Why SunPower’s loss is misleading

SunPower’s $568.7 million loss on a GAAP basis is what gave some in the investing community a little heartburn. But it has more to do with the strange accounting in the solar industry than anything else.

Management made the decision in the fourth quarter to sell about 45,000 solar leases, which are backed with $1.4 billion of long-term contracted payments. They anticipate the proceeds to be about $200 million in cash and the buyer will assume or pay off $436 million of debt for total proceeds of $636 million.

This decision led SunPower to re-evaluate whether leases were properly valued on its balance sheet. Based on accounting rules when the leases were distributed, SunPower had put the contracted payments on the balance sheet at a very low discount rate (based on real estate rules), which was lower than the 7% or 8% ballpark rate the leases are being sold for. The difference resulted in a $474 million charge to write down the assets on the balance sheet. It’s accounting, not fundamental weakness in the business, that drove the massive loss in the fourth quarter.

The sale of leases is part of a larger strategy to exit the project finance business. SunPower wants its business to be almost entirely the sale of solar panels and solutions in the future. That’ll make its income statement easier to read in the long term, but will lead to some odd accounting in the short term.

Distributed generation is still the name of the game

The residential and commercial solar business continued to be the highlight for SunPower. Residential revenue was $174.3 million with a gross margin of 16.7%. Commercial revenue was $318.2 million with a gross margin of 9.9%. But management also said residential and commercial margins were negatively impacted by about 4 and 2 percentage points, respectively. Without that, margins of around 21% and 12% would have been in the ballpark of what investors should expect long term.

Utility scale solar installation in a grassy field
Image source: SunPower.

SunPower also said it expects to gain market share in the U.S. residential and commercial markets in 2018, which is a bit of a surprise given the impact of tariffs. But the company wants to keep a big presence here, and that’s probably a good move in the long run, even if it sinks margins in the near term.

Power plants are growing, but not very profitable

The distributed solar business is SunPower’s bread and butter, but power plants are what could drive its long-term profitability. Power plant bookings for 2018 exceed 600 MW, and during the year nearly 1 GW of P-Series solar panels will be produced in China and Mexico.

I say this is the growth business because management expects to exit 2018 with about 2 GW of P-Series capacity, which will drive growth into 2019. Power plants won’t generate the revenue per watt or margin of a residential or commercial solar business, but 1 GW of sales could drive $600 million of sales or more, potentially doubling in 2019.

SunPower is a company in transition

The income statement and balance sheet will continue to be in flux in 2018 as SunPower sells assets like leases and its stake in 8point3 Energy Partners (NASDAQ:CAFD). But the company could reduce debt from $1.55 billion at the end of 2017 to around $811.1 million just from paying off 2018 convertible notes and reducing lease debt.

The next step for SunPower will be growing the power plant business and adding energy storage to more residential and commercial installations, which will drive incremental revenue without adding manufacturing capacity. If it can do that with strong margins, the company could return to sustainable profitability by the end of 2018.

*Stock Advisor returns as of February 5, 2018

SunPower® Solar Panels Powering Three Solar Carports in Grenoble

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SunPower® Solar Panels Powering Three Solar Carports in Grenoble

LA-TOUR-DE-SALVAGNY, France, Feb. 12, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR) announced today that 750 kilowatts of high efficiency SunPower® E-Series solar panels are powering three new carports in Grenoble. The project was led by regional utility GEG, in coordination with OSER and Grenoble Alpes Metropole, as part of its PARKOSOL program. PARKOSOL develops solar carport projects to serve the greater Grenoble area.[…]

“Solar carports make sense because they provide electricity as well as shade,” said GEG Production Director Daniel Besson. “High efficiency SunPower solar panels were the best choice for our carports because they maximize electricity output in space-constrained areas, and are recognized for high performance and reliability. The panels are manufactured sustainably, which enables these projects to meet environmental standards set by CRE, France’s energy regulatory commission.”

“Compared to conventional panels, SunPower E-Series solar panels produce 45 percent more energy in the same space over 25 years, and offer the solar industry’s best warranty, guaranteeing power and product quality for 25 years,” said SunPower Executive Vice President Peter Aschenbrenner. “SunPower is proud to partner with GEG on its innovative PARKOSOL program, promoting the increased use of cost-competitive, emission-free solar power in the Grenoble area.”

SunPower’s direct current E-Series solar panels, as well as its X-Series solar panels, are Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Silver. SunPower is the first solar panel manufacturer in the world to achieve this designation, which demonstrates a product’s quality based on rankings in five categories: material health, material reutilization, renewable energy use, water stewardship, and social fairness.

SunPower is a majority-owned subsidiary of Total SA.

About SunPower
As one of the world’s most innovative and sustainable energy companies, SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ: SPWR) provides a diverse group of customers with complete solar solutions and services. Residential customers, businesses, governments, schools and utilities around the globe rely on SunPower’s more than 30 years of proven experience. From the first flip of the switch, SunPower delivers maximum value and superb performance throughout the long life of every solar system. Headquartered in Silicon Valley, SunPower has dedicated, customer-focused employees in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America. For more information about how SunPower is changing the way our world is powered, visit www.sunpower.com.

©2018 SunPower Corporation. All Rights Reserved. SUNPOWER and the SUNPOWER logo are registered trademarks of SunPower Corporation in the U.S. and other countries as well. Cradle to Cradle Certified™ is a certification mark licensed by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.

SOURCE SunPower Corp.

Actis Acquires 110-Megawatt Solar Plant in Chile From SunPower

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Actis Acquires 110-Megawatt Solar Plant in Chile From SunPower

“With a supportive regulatory environment and abundant solar resource, Chile is a market we know extremely well through our investments in the Aela Energía and Atlas Renewables platforms,” said Javier Areitio, director at Actis. “We are confident that in partnership with Metro de Santiago and SunPower, the El Pelicano […]

On January 11, Metro de Santiago celebrated completion of the plant with an event at the site, attended by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and Metro de Santiago President Rodrigo Azocar. Metro de Santiago will buy the power generated by the plant under a power purchase agreement. SunPower is providing operations and maintenance services for the facility under a long-term contract.

“Actis is focused on sustainable value, which makes the El Pelicano Solar Plant a great fit for its portfolio,” said Chuck Boynton, SunPower chief financial officer. “High performance SunPower Oasis technology is designed to cost-effectively maximize power generation for decades. Forward-looking organizations like Actis and Metro de Santiago are a global model for the development of solar power, reducing reliance on unsustainable energy sources.”

The SunPower Oasis system is a fully-integrated, modular solar power block that is engineered for rapid deployment and optimizing land use. The high-efficiency SunPower solar panels installed at the site will be cleaned using SunPower’s proprietary robotic solar panel cleaning technology, which uses 75 percent less water than traditional cleaning methods and can help improve system performance by up to 15 percent.

Worldwide, more than 4.6 gigawatts of solar power plants operate today using SunPower’s leading solar technology.

About Actis
Actis is a leading investor in growth markets with over US$13 billion raised since inception. Actis targets consistent, competitive returns delivered responsibly through insights gained from trusted relationships and local knowledge, set within a culture of active ownership across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

In the power sector, Actis has committed US$5 billion to 33 energy infrastructure companies across 25+ countries generating 18 gigawatts of energy capacity and directly impacted 80 million consumers. Actis’ investments in Chile include 1.2GW Pan-Latin American renewable energy platform, Atlas Renewable Energy and Chilean renewable platform Aela Energía which is targeting 330 megawatts of installed capacity.

Actis is a signatory to the United Nations backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). Actis was awarded an A+, the highest grade attainable, in the PRI’s latest assessment.

About SunPower
As one of the world’s most innovative and sustainable energy companies, SunPower Corporation (NASDAQ: SPWR) provides a diverse group of customers with complete solar solutions and services. Residential customers, businesses, governments, schools and utilities around the globe rely on SunPower’s more than 30 years of proven experience. From the first flip of the switch, SunPower delivers maximum value and superb performance throughout the long life of every solar system. Headquartered in Silicon Valley, SunPower has dedicated, customer-focused employees in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America.

SunPower’s Forward-Looking Statements
This press release contains “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including, but not limited to, statements regarding project plans and deliverables, projected energy output, anticipated product performance, cost savings, and continuity of business plans and strategies. These forward-looking statements are based on our current assumptions, expectations, and beliefs and involve substantial risks and uncertainties that may cause results, performance, or achievement to materially differ from those expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause or contribute to such differences include, but are not limited to: regulatory changes and the availability of economic incentives promoting use of solar energy, challenges inherent in constructing and maintaining certain of our large projects, competition and market conditions in the solar and general energy industry, and fluctuations or declines in the performance of our solar panels and other products and solutions. A detailed discussion of these factors and other risks that affect our business is included in filings we make with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from time to time, including our most recent reports on Forms 10-K and 10-Q, particularly under the heading “Risk Factors.” Copies of these filings are available online from the SEC or on the SEC Filings section of our Investor Relations website at investors.sunpowercorp.com. All forward-looking statements in this press release are based on information currently available to us, and we assume no obligation to update these forward-looking statements in light of new information or future events.

©2018 SunPower Corporation. All Rights Reserved. SUNPOWER, the SUNPOWER logo, and OASIS are registered trademarks of SunPower Corporation in the U.S. and other countries as well.

SOURCE SunPower Corp.