August 29, 2007 / 3:43 AM / in 10 years

SunPower eyes new markets with energy systems

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Solar cell and panel maker SunPower Corp (SPWR.O) is targeting multiple residential, commercial and industrial markets for its energy systems via the acquisition of its new PowerLight division, SunPower Chief Executive Tom Werner said in an interview on Tuesday.

SunPower also anticipates merger and acquisition activity in the fast-growing solar industry and has put together a team to review opportunities, Werner told Reuters.

“Restructuring and consolidation is inevitable within 5 to 10 years and SunPower will be a catalyst ... I can assure you that we’re putting resources into this game.”

The PowerLight acquisition, which closed in January, gave Jose, California-based SunPower more expertise in solar power systems and marketing to focus on four markets: residential retrofits, new home construction, commercial private and public buildings, and solar electric power plants, Werner said.

Among other projects, SunPower is working with homebuilders like Lennar Corp (LEN.N) to equip new homes with solar roofs, installing systems for Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) and Macy‘s, and building a 15-megawatt solar power plant at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas, Nevada, that it says is the largest solar photovoltaic system in North America.

For residential solar retrofits, SunPower maintains a dealer network that carries the SunPower “brand” and offers services like cooperative advertising, help with the dealer supply chain, or financing working capital.

The company also is working with electric utilities on ways to construct solar power systems that will meet state requirements for putting more renewable energy supplies on the grid, Werner said.

More than half of the U.S. states have set “renewable portfolio standards” for alternative energies like solar and wind to replace electricity fired by coal or gas.

    SunPower last week said it expects to have enough silicon to generate 250 megawatts or more of solar cell production in 2008.

    It said it expects to ramp up production beginning this quarter that will help SunPower hit its target of reducing installed solar energy costs by 50 percent by 2012.

    “That gets you to retail electric rate parity in a large number of markets,” Werner said.

    SunPower shares, which have gained 68 percent this year, fell 3.6 percent to $60.26 on Nasdaq on Tuesday.

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