Images courtesy SunPower
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By Brian Libby
The Benefits of Using Solar Power
The use of solar energy in the United States is accelerating. By 2030, 13.4% of American homes will rely on solar power (number 7 on the list of UN Sustainable Building Goals), and studies have shown that houses with photovoltaic (PV) panels can reap higher sale prices.¹ As our lives become more connected and the devices on which we rely require more and more electricity, homeowners are looking for better ways to be sustainable, resilient and economic. Solar power, coupled with the latest generation of solar batteries and app-based monitoring systems, can deliver just that, providing reduced utility bills and backup power during outages.
Enter SunPower: one of the solar industry’s most trusted brands thanks to more than 35 years of experience, culminating in technologies like the Maxeon solar cell, which forms the basis for the SunPower Equinox system and the SunVault battery. “At SunPower, we are leading the industry with the most efficient, durable solar panels on the market,” explains Jensen Chapman, SunPower regional sales manager. “Now with our proprietary technology, we have created the all-in-one integrated system. And we’re the only solar company that’s been around longer than our own 25-year warranty.”
An Investment Worth Making
Solar is more affordable than ever, with PV costs dropping by more than 70 percent over the last decade according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, and a combination of federal and state tax credits further underwriting installation costs. Regulatory processes differ from state to state, and because the cost of power is different in each jurisdiction, so too is the time it takes to recoup one’s investment. But no matter the location, PV panels pay for themselves over time. “In a place like California with the third-highest electricity rates in the nation and 315 days of sunshine on average each year, they’re going to get a quick return on investment: five to seven years on average,” Chapman explains. In other states, circumstances are changing rapidly. “The state of Connecticut’s price per kilowatt hour five years ago was about 11 cents. Now it has more than doubled, to about 23 cents,” he explains. With solar, “You’re buying into fixed-cost energy, hedging against future energy costs.”
A Tradition on the Cutting Edge
From its inception, SunPower has represented innovation. Dr. Richard Swanson, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford, co-founded the company in 1985, and soon SunPower performed R&D for the U.S. Department of Energy. The results were literally out of this world: in the 1990s, SunPower cells powered NASA’s robotic Pathfinder probe on Mars. In the 21st century, the company became publicly listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange and continued to set new world records for solar efficiency. The past decade has seen SunPower innovate at the residential level, in 2016 introducing SunPower Equinox, the nation’s first complete solar package to include the panels, micro-inverter, racking, and smart-monitoring system.
SunVault Battery and Monitoring System
A recent study by International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, University College London and Finland’s Aalto University found that without a battery, homeowners with PV panels typically only use about 30-40 percent of the electricity generated. With a battery, self-consumption almost doubles. And homeowners can save money by using stored power when electricity-grid rates are highest. SunPower’s battery and storage component, SunVault, ensures that you never have to worry about losing power during an outage, not to mention in the evening or shade.
And with the MySunPower app, you can control the system, monitoring and managing your energy production and consumption. “You can see how much the panels are producing on a daily basis, and how much is going to power versus the storage system,” SunPower’s Chapman says. “The app makes it really easy to predict when to shift to battery loads.”
During a power outage, the SunVault battery can help assure consistent power is maintained. “I’m frequently asked, ‘If I have solar on my roof, will I still have power if the grid goes down?’ Not without a battery,” Chapman explains. By rule, home systems connected to a grid must remain off in an outage. But SunVault can provide backup energy when the grid is down.
SunPower’s Maxeon solar cells and SunVault Storage offer superior performance and dependability. Most solar cells are made from polysilicon and are crisscrossed with metal frames to conduct electricity, lasting about 25 years. SunPower’s Maxeon cells are a mono-crystalline material with its circuitry on the copper-plated back of the cell, eliminating the need for cell frames. The technology produces electricity at a higher rate than conventional cells, and Maxeon’s lower degradation rate provides the panels an estimated 40-year useful life. And while conventional panels cease producing if one cell stops, each SunPower panel has its own microinverter and fires independently, improving resilience. “Maxeon—it’s the secret sauce,” Chapman says. The SunVault system is also a superior product, offering almost twice as much power backup as a conventional battery. Instead of cobalt or lithium iron, SunVault uses a lithium-ion phosphate, offering close to twice as many cycles as conventional batteries.
Installation Made Easy
Bringing a solar system home has never been easier. SunPower’s Design Studio software allows customers to easily configure PV panels on their own roofs and get an estimate of how much power can be generated. Once the panels are installed, the SunVault battery system fits discreetly into one’s garage or even outdoors. Whether it’s the 13 or 26kWh system, SunVault is less than half the size of a standard refrigerator. “SunPower is the only company that provides a 25-year warranty for everything on the roof, including panels, microinverter and racking, and a 10-year warranty for everything on the ground (SunVault and monitoring hardware),” Chapman says. “With SunPower, one call does it all.”
Leader in Sustainability
Since it began, SunPower has made it its mission to bring clean energy to the masses. And they’ve succeeded, garnering more than 1,000 patents for solar innovation and earning the brand a place at the top of the sustainability totem. Using solar-powered energy in itself is considered a sustainable act, so manufacturing the products that help others reduce their carbon footprint is a good step forward in the quest for clean energy. But SunPower also employs efforts toward reducing its own carbon footprint as a brand, as well as making a social impact. Here are some of the ways SunPower works toward a clean, sustainable future.
- SunPower’s E-Series and X-Series DC panels are Cradle to Cradle Certified Bronze, which can earn builders and businesses LEED points
- SunPower’s packaging materials are recyclable or reusable
- SunPower’s Sustainability Metrics Report shows that, as of 2019, the clean power generated by their products equaled taking almost 14 million cars off the road for a year
- In 2019, SunPower recycled 82% of its solid waste
- SunPower has received several sustainability awards including Patents for Humanity, Green Builder Eco-Leaders, Environmental Leader’s Product of the Year, and PV Magazine’s Sustainability Award in 2019.
- SunPower offers discounts to universities and qualified organizations for educational advancements and to help aid the community
- SunPower sponsors 3S (Solar Service Station), providing rechargeable solar lanterns to light energy-poor communities in the Philippines
- SunPower partners with We Care Solar to provide light and electricity through solar suitcases to schools, orphanages, and relief camps in Uganda, Kenya, Haiti and beyond, with a science and technology education program baked into the partnership