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Maxeon Solar might open a 1.8-GW solar panel assembly plant in the United States

Written by: Leonard Parker | Solar News | 07th April

When SunPower spun off its solar panel manufacturing efforts into new company Maxeon Solar Technologies in Aug. 2020, the plan was for SunPower to continue manufacturing its own P-Series of solar modules for the U.S. market out of the Oregon plant it had bought from SolarWorld. Five months later, SunPower ceased production in Oregon. Maxeon has now announced that it will sell the Performance line of shingled solar panels into the United States, first through a Mexican manufacturing plant and then potentially through a new U.S. facility.

Solar panel assembly at Maxeon’s facility in Mexico

The two-phase expansion of Maxeon’s production capacity should bring up to 3.6 GW of new module assembly to North America. The expansion is contingent upon Maxeon obtaining the finances to purchase equipment, after which initial U.S. sales are expected to start in the first quarter of 2022.

“We are excited to announce this initiative to expand our presence in the U.S. market. By leveraging existing supply chain assets in North America, we can offer Maxeon’s industry-leading shingled module technology to the rapidly growing U.S. market,” said Jeff Waters, CEO of Maxeon Solar Technologies. “Maxeon already has a strong presence in the U.S. rooftop distributed generation (DG) market through our supply of interdigitated back contact (IBC) panels to SunPower Corporation. We expect to expand the scope of this partnership by also supplying Performance panels to SunPower for use in its DG business, broadening their offering to capture more of the available market. We intend to also complement and expand our U.S. presence with direct sales into the large and rapidly growing large-scale segment, which is not addressed by our current SunPower partnership.”

In phase one of production expansion, Maxeon plans to use existing facilities to quickly ramp 1.8 GW of new capacity. Large-format G12 mono-PERC solar cells will be manufactured in Maxeon’s manufacturing site in Malaysia, and module assembly is planned to be performed at Maxeon’s current facility in Mexicali, Mexico.

Maxeon will also begin a search for an optimal site for module assembly within the United States, with a capacity of up to 1.8 GW. If successful, this second phase is expected to begin operation in 2023.

“By using existing manufacturing facilities for phase one, we can leverage our current plant footprint and our experienced, highly trained work force to quickly ramp volume of our advanced Performance line solar panels for sale into the U.S. market. Greater volume in Malaysia and Mexico will also enhance overhead utilization, helping to drive down cost for our industry-leading IBC products,” Waters said. “Our Mexicali factory offers a particularly efficient outbound logistics profile for customers in the Southwest U.S. region. This and later planned expansion of our Performance line module assembly capacity in the U.S. will bring our supply chain even closer to our customers.”

The new capacity will be used to manufacture Maxeon’s latest shingled bifacial panel technology, with rated power of up to 650 W per panel and efficiency of over 21%. While Maxeon’s primary target market for the new capacity will be utility-scale power plants and large commercial and industrial systems, the company also plans to produce panels suitable for DG applications in the residential and light commercial segments.