Yesterday SunPower completed a vow that it made in the wake of the Section 201 tariffs that it would manufacture products in the United States. And in the process, it has saved a factory near Portland, Oregon.
According to a press release, SunPower states that it has closed on its acquisition of SolarWorld Americas, which includes the company’s factory in Hillsboro. SunPower estimates that the factory has 200 employees, which is down from a high of around 700. Our most recent data indicates that the factory had 450 MW of annual cell capacity and 560 MW of module capacity.
The final price was not disclosed.
Like the end of any good drama, this acquisition resolves the conflict between two enemies. SolarWorld Americas had joined Suniva in the leadership of the Section 201 case which resulted in ad valorem tariffs on imported cells and modules. SunPower was perhaps the most affected of any manufacturer by these tariffs, as its very high efficiency modules are some of the most expensive on a per-watt basis, and led the opposition.
However, after meeting with the Trump Administration SunPower took a change of tack, and announced that it would invest in U.S. manufacturing. And in what may have been a quid pro quo, SunPower was granted an exemption for its back-contact solar modules from Section 201 tariffs.
“This acquisition is an important step in helping to reshape solar manufacturing in America,” said Tom Werner, SunPower CEO and board chair. “With a dedicated and experienced Hillsboro workforce and our advanced P-Series solar panel manufacturing technology, invented and perfected in Silicon Valley, we’ll be able to sell high-performance American-assembled panels to serve our strong U.S. market demand.”
SunPower says that it will continue to make SolarWorld’s legacy products for “the next several months,” but has already begun to invest money in the factory and to move equipment to transition to production of its P-type shingle-cell modules. The company has not said whether it will continue to manufacture cells at the factory, or ship these in.
It is unclear where SunPower is getting the money for this acquisition, which it previously stated that it would accomplish without any new capital raises. At the end of the second quarter the company had only $257 million in cash and equivalents, but is bringing in $360 million from the sale of yieldco 8point3 Energy Partners and $25 million in cash from the sale of its microinverter line to Enphase, as well as addition proceeds from the sale of its residential lease portfolio and 4.7 GW of projects to Clearview Energy Partners.