Despite the gut in PV modules throughout most of the world, SunPower is expecting more demand for its products. As such it just introduced its newest manufacturing facility in De Vernejoul, France, near it’s northeastern border with Germany.
The new plant employs roughly 80 workers and will produce 44 megawatts of modules annually. “Construction on the facility began last November and the facility has been up and running for two weeks. De Vernejoul can be expanded if needed,” said SunPower Vice President Natalie Wymer.
The new plant is based on SunPower’s european strategy, which CEO Tom Werner explained in the company’s recent earnings call. "In Europe, our primary focus is on countries with conditions that will allow rooftop PV systems to compete with conventional sources of power in the near future, even with dramatically reduced economic incentives. Renewable energy policy in Europe is undergoing significant changes,” he said. Werner anticipated continued support for distributed rooftop PV systems in Europe, however.
The plant is using a similar, highly automated approach to photovoltaic production as the company introduced at its Milpitas, Cal. facility with Flextronics. “With the exception of ongoing continuous improvements that we constantly work toward,” Wymer said. “As a result of the quality and productivity of some of the equipment set used in Milpitas, some equipment was exported from U.S. companies to the De Vernejoul plant.
While many other PV companies have been scaling back SunPower is still ramping production up. "Execution at our Milpitas, California panel manufacturing facility is on track. We are now operating three shifts and ramping capacity to meet the needs of the growing California market,” Werner said during the earnings call.
"The plant we're dedicating here will allow SunPower to provide the world's highest efficiency solar systems on the market today to key European markets—Belgium, France, Germany and Italy—within weeks,” said Chief Operating Officer Marty Neese, speaking at the dedication. “This physical proximity will enhance our flexibility and shorten our delivery lead times, ramping up our ability to compete in today's highly competitive market,” he said.