SunPower becomes biggest US solar panel builder with SolarWorld purchase
- SunPower completed its acquisition of SolarWorld Americas' assets Monday, increasing the company's solar panel manufacturing capacity in the U.S.
- SolarWorld's Hillsboro, Oregon facility will convert to manufacture SunPower's 19% efficiency panels, P-Series, with shipments expected to begin by the first quarter of 2019. Hillsboro employees will continue producing SolarWorld Americas' product during the coming months, as part of the transition.
- In September, the U.S. Trade Representative announced tariff exclusions for a slew of solar module components, which analysts said directly favored SunPower's solar module manufacturing operations in Mexico.
The acquisition of SolarWorld Americas, the subsidiary of a German company and one of the two petitioners that sought tariffs on imported solar panels, makes SunPower the largest panel manufacturer in the U.S.
SunPower promised investments in domestic manufacturing earlier this year when it announced its intention to purchase SolarWorld.
"Even though SunPower's Mexican-made modules have received an exemption from the Section 201 tariff, it is still useful for the company to have domestic manufacturing capacity, especially as it acquired SolarWorld for pennies on the dollar," Pavel Molchanov, senior vice president and equity research analyst at Raymond James & Associates, told Utility Dive.
The price to purchase SolarWorld assets was not disclosed.
SunPower had anticipated manufacturing retrofits would be necessary for the upcoming P-Series production, alongside factory improvements. It has already began to move relevant equipment to Hillsboro, according to its press statement.
The investment in domestic solar manufacturing comes less than a year after the Trump administration imposed a 30% tariff on imported solar panels. First Solar announced construction in June on a northwestern Ohio manufacturing facility expected to be operational in late 2019. First Solar is currently the largest solar panel manufacturer in the country. The company had cited higher solar demand and changes in the corporate tax rate as reasons for its expansion.
While the tariffs have led to an immediate growth in domestic solar manufacturing capacity, the shift could continue without a significant boost to job creation due to increasing automation in the sector, Bloomberg has reported.
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