SunPower partners on 3 GW of projects in China

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SunPower Corp. is expanding its reach in China with a second joint venture that aims to develop and own at least 3 GW of PV power plants in the country.

The California-based company signed the joint venture agreement with Tianjin Zhonghuan Semiconductor (TZS), Sichuan Development, Leshan Electric Power and Tianjin Tsinlien Investment.

The partners plan to develop the power plants in Sichuan province and are expected to be built primarily with high-efficiency, low-concentration photovoltaic (LCPV) technology. Initial LCPV deployment is expected to begin in 2015.

The joint venture, known as Sichuan Shengtian New Energy Development and based in Chengdu, Sichuan, is expected to incorporate the proprietary LCPV SunPower C7 Tracker technology into the planned power plants.

As part of the deal, SunPower will invest up to approximately $20 million, amounting to a 4.6% stake in the venture, which remains subject to the approval of the Chinese government.

"In a short period of time, SunPower has begun to tap into China’s tremendous, growing market, where our leading technology is well suited to the environment and is in demand," said SunPower President and CEO Tom Werner.

The announcement marks SunPower’s second joint venture agreement in China. In 2012, SunPower formed the Huaxia CPV joint venture with TZS, Inner Mongolia Power and the Hohhot Jinqiao City Development Company.

To date, a 300 MW C7 cell receiver manufacturing facility has been constructed in the Jinqiao Development Zone in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, and three 50 MW production lines are now in operation in connection with the Huaxia joint venture.

In March, SunPower announced the sale of more than 70 MW of cell packages to the joint venture. The packages are being used for the first phase of the SunPower LCPV projects, which includes a 20 MW project in Saihan and a 100 MW project in Wuchuan. The projects, both located in Hohhot, are expected to be completed in 2015.

SunPower’s LCPV technology combines single-axis tracking technology with rows of parabolic mirrors that reflect light onto SunPower’s high-efficiency, third-generation Maxeon solar cells with efficiencies of up to 24.5%. According to the company, the mirrors reduce the number of cells required to generate electricity, lowering the levelized cost of energy when compared with competing technologies.