Note: Solar Choice is not a solar installer and has no financial or other incentives to promote any product brand over another.
Overview of SunPower – Company History
SunPower was co-founded in April 1985 by Dr Richard Swanson a Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford and is now an industry-leading residential and commercial solar panel brand name headquartered in San Jose, California. SunPower’s Maxeon 3 solar panel is currently the most efficient panel available on the Australian market.
In 2020, following a ~$300m investment from Tinajin Zhonghuan Seminconductor Co. (TZS), SunPower split into SunPower and Maxeon Solar. It is Maxeon Solar who is now the company that manufactures the solar panels, although the branding remains as Sunpower. Maxeon Solar is headquarted in Singapore and has manufacturing facilities located in France, Malaysia, Mexico, China and the Philippines. It is expected this split and utilisation of TZS’ low-cost manufacturing processes through-out Asia will enable the cost of Sunpower’s panels to drop.
SunPower only sells their panels through to authorised installers rather than using wholesalers or distributers. Most servicing will be completed by the company that installs your system but SunPower do have an Australian office located in Elsternwick which can be contacted on a toll free number (1800 786 769).
Interestingly, a SunPower solar panel powered car won the World Solar Challenge race across Australia in 1993. SunPower has also supplied solar panels to space stations through a number of projects with NASA over the past 25 years.
Key Panel Indicators
SunPower Solar Panels
|Bloomberg Tier 1 Ranking||
|PV Evolution Labs Top Performer||
|Office location in Australia||
What is a Bloomberg Tier 1 Solar Panel?
Bloomberg’s infamous tier 1 ranking is NOT a measure of Solar Panel quality in any way. It is simply an indication of the bankability of the manufacturer based on publicly released information on the financial health the company. This should give you an idea if the company is a large, well-known manufacturer.
See full list of Bloomberg Tier 1 Solar Panels
What is PV Evolution Labs Top Performer?
PV Evolution Labs with support from DNV GL independently test solar panel reliability. The tests are voluntary, with solar panel manufacturers paying to participate in the testing. This testing process is internationally renowned and is an accurate reflection of the solar panel’s performance.
SunPower Solar Panels are currently NOT ranked in the PV Evolution Labs Top Performers in the latest report (2023)
See full list of PV Evolution Labs Top Performing Solar Panels
Why is office location in Australia Important?
Most solar panel manufacturers entering the Australian market, first setup their distribution channels and worry about customer service later. This has led to many unhappy customers who are left trying to contact Chinese head offices to claim on their 10-year product warranty.
Relying on your solar installer is not always an option as we’ve seen many residential solar installers (including the large ones) go out of business well within the lifetime of the systems they are installing.
SunPower has an Australian office located in Elsternwick, Victoria.
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How Much Do SunPower Solar Panels Cost?
Based on Solar Choice’s database we have provided the below average costs as an indicative guide. These prices include:
- Full turnkey Solar System with SunPower Solar Panels
- Installation from a pre-vetted reputable installer from Solar Choice’s network
- The STC rebate and GST
|System Size||Average Fully Installed Cost|
SunPower – Points of Difference
There are many solar panels out there, what makes Sunpower solar panels stand out?
In 2019 SunPower released the first 400Wp residential solar panel, the SunPower Maxeon 3. This panel was the most efficient residential solar panel in the world with 22.6% efficiency. The Maxeon 2 and Performance 3 solar panels also have impressive efficiency ratings of 20.4% and 19.9% respectively.
Low Return Rate
Maxeon technology panels claim to have an expected useful life of 40 years and a return rate of less than 0.005% on over 15 million panels. This supports their industry leading product warranty of upto 40 years.
IBC Solar Cells
The SunPower Maxeon Series consists of interdigitated back contact (IBC) solar cells. IBC technology utilises back contact energy conversion instead of the standard front contact conversion. This enables the cell to absorb more sunlight as the cells don’t have grid lines. The cells sit on a tin-copper metal system, this provides increased resistance to corrosion in comparison to the metal paste used in conventional panels. The cells are joined together by thick triple-redundant connectors, this manages the expanding and contracting of cells due to temperature changes.
Typically solar panels degrade at 2.5% in the first year of operation and 0.7% for each year thereafter. That means a typical 25 year solar panel performance warranty will guarantee around 80%-82% of their nameplate rating after 25 years. The Maxeon series is warrantied to degrade at a maximum of 0.25% a year leading to an industry leading 25 year guarantee of 92%. Although the difference might be fairly small in the early years, the additional savings will add up through the lifetime of the project.
Sunpower Solar Panel Technologies
Sunpower Solar currently has 42 solar panels approved by the Clean Energy Council in Australia under the name “SunPower Corporation”. This is a requirement to be eligible for the federal STC solar rebate.
Sunpower has three main series of solar panels: Maxeon, AC Modules and Performance Solar and which have a variety of different options to suit residential, commercial and utility-scale projects.
Maxeon Solar Panels
As the main product of Sunpower, the Maxeon series has 5 sub-series available in Australia: Maxeon 2,3,4,5 and 6. They are manufactured in one of their three plants located in Malaysia, Philippines and Mexico. The Maxeon solar panel’s power output ranges from 340Wp to 440Wp, with the later models offering greater output and efficiency.
The maximum efficiency of all panels in this series is above 22% which sets the standard for the market, and the latest product has the highest efficiency of 22.8% (Maxeon 6) which is currently the most efficient solar panel on the Australian market. The Maxeon solar panels also offer industry leading warranty terms with a 25 year performance warranty and a degradation rate of only 0.2% p.a. after the first year.
Performance Solar Panels
The performance series offers excellent quality which doesn’t quite match the Maxeon series but hits a more affordable price point for consumers. The power output range is slightly smaller than Maxeon (315Wp to 415Wp) and the maximum efficiency of Performance Series is up to 21.1% (Performance 6).
One of the biggest differences between Maxeon Series and Performance Solar Panels is the cell’s type. Performance Solar Panels are using monocrystalline PERC cells while the Maxeon series panels are their proprietary back contact technology.
Sunpower’s Maxeon and Performance series panels series are called AC modules when they are combined with inbuilt Enphase micro-inverters.
A microinverter is a small electronic device that sits beneath each solar panel which is design to optimise the individual performance of each panel and improve the systems resilience to partial shading and soiling.
All of Sunpower’s AC solar panels are integrated with micro-inverter within their manufacturing facilities which reduces the chance of errors and makes the installation process more efficient.
Sunpower’s Maxeon AC Solar Panels come with an amazing 40 year product and performance warranty which is unparalleled in the industry. The built in Enphase micro-inverters offer a 25 year product warranty.
Compare quotes from up to 7 installers in your area now.
Sunpower’s Warranty Offer for Australian Customers
Solar panels in the Australian market come with a performance warranty and a product warranty.
The product warranty is the more important one as it covers manufacturing defects and most problems experienced with solar panels. Most Sunpower solar panels come with a 25-year product warranty which is ahead of the market standard of 12 years. As their AC Modules integrated with microinverter into the panels, the warranty period of this series of solar panels can be up to a market-leading 40 years.
The performance warranty guarantees a certain level of output for the lifetime of the panel – typically guaranteeing 80-82% of the nameplate output after 25 years. Sunpower’s solar panels come with a range of different performance warranties ranging from 87% to an impressive 92% after 25 years.
Given Sunpower have an Australian office to assist with the warranty claim process, customers would have a clear path to access a claim even if their installer is no longer around to help.
Click here to read: Sunpower’s full Australian warranty document – DC PV
Click here to read: Sunpower’s full Australian warranty document – DC PV with Microinverter
Pros and Cons of Sunpower Solar Panels
SunPower Solar Panel Specifications
|SunPower Maxeon 3||SunPower Performance 6|
|Cell Number||104 Cells||104 Cells|
|Cell Type||Monocrystalline Maxeon Gen III||Monocrystalline PERC|
|Rated Voltage||65.8 V||29.9V|
|Annual Power Degradation||0.25%||0.45%|
|Dimensions||1690 x 1046 x 40mm
|1808 x 1086 x 30mm
|Product Warranty||40 years||25 years|
|Performance Warranty||40 years||25 years|
|Operational Temperature Range||-40°C to 85°C
|-40°C to 85°C
Should You Buy SunPower Solar Panels?
If you can afford it – absolutely. SunPower solar panels are definitely one of the best options in the Australian market (there is a good argument to say SunPower Maxeon 3 panel is the best). You would be getting top of the line specifications across efficiency, temperature characteristics, power degradation and an excellent warranty offer. The only caveat is whether the quote you get will be within your budget.
Hopefully with the splitting of manufacturing arm to Maxeon Solar and utilisation of low-cost manufacturing techniques the SunPower solar panels will become affordable for everyone without sacrificing their leading position on quality and durability.
Example of a SunPower Commercial Solar Project
An example of a large scale SunPower installation is the Sunraysia Solar Farm located near Balranald in southern NSW. This utility-scale solar panel farm will have over 750,000 of SunPower’s 19% efficient Performance Series modules. The panels will cover an area of 10km² and the farm is estimated to generate approximately 255MWDC of electricity, which is enough to power more than 50,000 homes. The solar construction company Decmil has designed and is building the farm. The project is due to be completed in 2020.
Read more product reviews from Solar Choice
Since 2008 our knowledge and sophisticated software has allowed over 300,000 Australian households and businesses to make a well-informed choice on their solar & battery installer.
- Enphase Microinverters: An Independent Review by Solar Choice - 12 May, 2023
- Znshine Solar Panels: An Independent Review by Solar Choice - 1 February, 2023
- SunPower Solar Panels: An Independent Review by Solar Choice - 28 November, 2022
Reviews from Australians who have installed SunPower Panels
Sunpower Maxeon 5 panels have been ultra reliable so far. The maximum variance in output between panels (least productive vs most productive) in my arrays so far is 2.5% (measured after more than 18 months of use).
Look very nice. Plain black.
Black panels with black frames/rails/end caps and pet protection mesh look great on the roof and perform well.
A little early to tell but they are producing power as expected for the time of year.
Too early to tell how good the panels are
No comment as we haven't had them installed long enough to comment.
It works so far...what more can I say.