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Summary:

The story of high efficiency solar photovoltaic panel maker SunPower puts the whole clean energy landscape into perspective. After 25 years in the business the company has been producing solar panels commercially for only about five years. Here’s our photos from the factory tour.

The history of solar panel maker SunPower puts the whole clean energy landscape into perspective. After 25 years in the business the company has been producing solar panels commercially for only about five years, explained founder Richard Swanson to a group of reporters at its factory in Richmond, Calif on Tuesday. Swanson, who originally founded the company while working on his doctorate in engineering at Stanford University, even initially focused on the solar photovoltaic concentrating market (using mirrors and lenses to focus sunlight), and only moved further into the flat panel PV market when the company teamed up with Cypress Semiconductors.

But for the nascent solar industry those five years have turned SunPower into a powerhouse with 1 GW of solar PV deployed, 4 GW of solar power plants in its pipeline and a 1.4 GW per year solar plant that will go under construction later this year. However, the two and a half decades of SunPower’s ups and downs, sheds light onto the journey ahead for many of the younger solar startups that are working on the next generation of solar technology like Nanosolar, Solyndra, and Miasole. On that kind of time table these newbies have another good decade to meet their goals.

Is SunPower worried about any of these solar startups? Not really, Swanon tells me, “First Solar is the bogey in the business,”

Here’s pics from the factory tour:

 

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