Residential solar adoption is increasing at a rapid clip, catalyzed by a number of factors, including consumer demand for renewable energy, the falling price of solar panel installation and upkeep, and availability of federal tax credits. Already a $10 billion industry, the runway for growth is long: Only 2% of U.S. residents are currently deploying solar, and demand is rising.
Upward trends during 2020 are illustrative of the industry's resilience. According to energy research and consultancy, Wood McKenzie, in the second quarter of 2020, the U.S. solar market installed 3.5 GW of solar PV capacity — a 52% increase year over year, and the largest second quarter ever.
"This year has been challenging for nearly every industry, but even with all the uncertainty renewable energy is gaining ground and homeowners are switching to solar," says Tom Werner, CEO of SunPower, a leading solar technology and energy services provider. "It's clear that consumers care about their impact on the climate, and they care about reducing the size of their electricity bills."
SunPower expects 30-50% growth in its residential and new homes businesses in 2021.
Innovation in storage and supply
2020 has been a pressure year for traditional power infrastructure in the U.S. Heatwaves and wildfires in California triggered rolling blackouts and public safety shutoffs.
"The traditional electricity grid is in need of updating for improved resiliency," says Werner. "So we are taking the power plant and putting it right in people's homes."
SunPower's new SunVault™ storage system, combined with its SunPower Equinox® system, allows homeowners to capture energy directly from the sun and store it for use when they need it most. The storage system is contained in two sleekly designed boxes, typically installed in the garage.
SunVault is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to harnessing technology to improve the solar energy offering. SunPower's intelligent software will soon touch everything from grid integration to electricity bill optimization, delivering a user-friendly customer experience from the day of activation. Controlling from where, when and how you use your energy will soon be as easy as online banking or scrolling a news feed.
"Our application gives homeowners control over the electricity stored," Werner continues, "this allows you to offset costs at peak times and gives you the opportunity to store energy for use during an outage. In some cases when your solar system produces more energy than you need, you can sell your excess energy back to the grid, helping to take pressure off the grid during peak times."
2020 has been one of SunPower's most significant years since going public in 2005. In August, it spun off Maxeon Solar Technologies, the manufacturing and international sales arm of its business, creating two independent publicly-traded companies.
This strategic milestone means SunPower stays focused on developing its positions in the U.S. distributed generation, storage and energy services segments, while Maxeon will focuses on manufacturing high quality, high efficiency panels and sales and installation outside the U.S.
"By splitting into separate companies, we have unleashed the potential of two companies, allowing for more creativity and an intense focus on what each company needs to do," says Werner of the split. "This has enabled both companies to move faster and be more nimble, which means we're each now optimized for our particular markets."
Investor, employee and customer reaction has been positive. "Many of those who specialize in manufacturing and scale are moving to Maxeon; those who specialize in innovative customer solutions are moving toward SunPower," Werner continues, "what's great is that, because we're maintaining a close relationship, we understand each other and have created businesses we can each model and interface with."
SunPower remains in an exclusive supply relationship with Maxeon, which will provide their solar panels for the next two years. The companies are also cooperating on the development and commercialization of next generation solar panel technologies, with early stage research conducted by SunPower's Silicon Valley-based R&D group, and deployment and scale-up going to Maxeon.
Total fully supports this strategic move and remains a majority stakeholder of SunPower. It maintains a strong ambition to grow in the U.S. solar market, one of the largest in the world, together with SunPower.
The future of solar
The main draw of renewable energy sources is their reduced impact on the environment. In places where sunshine is plentiful, solar is an obvious choice. SunPower's new storage solutions make that choice even easier.
"Whether it's residential or commercial we offer a multi-beneficial energy solution to our customers. They can go green, save money and optimize the way they use electricity," said Werner. "We have created software and applications to help customers capitalize on their investment, while combating climate change."