USA’s SunPower realises falling costs through improved manufacturing efficiencies

Top solar PV manufacturers are still reporting large gains in efficiency and manufacturing processes that are delivering cost reductions of 20 per cent or more a year.

It is widely thought that the dramatic cost declines in the solar PV industry over the last 5 years were a result only of surplus capacity. But even as the market strikes a new balance, significant manufacturing cost gains are still being obtained.

SunPower, the leading US manufacturer, last week said it had beat its targets of reducing manufacturing costs by 20 per cent in 2013, following a similar fall a year earlier.

Further cost falls are expected. SunPower president and CEO Tom Werner says the new line of manufacturing plants that will be rolled out by the company will reduce the cost per watt by a further 35 per cent over its current manufacturing lines. There will also be a lift in fuel cell efficiency that will also drive down the cost of modules.

Those cost falls are being translated into large scale deployment, with SunPower also reporting that the average cost of its 1.5MW Oasis power block, the module it uses for large scale installations such as the 579MW Solar Star project, fell 24 per cent in the last year.

That is a result of installment efficiencies that can be obtained as large projects are rolled out. Further cost falls are anticipated with the deployment of robotics engineering for cleaning, the rollout of battery storage, and the growing interest in major banks in financing mechanisms.

“We believe that SunPower’s ability to directly attack cost across the entire value chain represents an important source of long-term competitive advantage,” Werner said.

Top image via SunPower.

© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd 

Giles Parkinson