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SunPower sees storage in commercial market in 2015

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Leading US solar company SunPower has flagged the introduction of battery storage into the commercial market in 2015 in Australia, as it looks to rapidly expand its suite of home energy service offerings.

SunPower, one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of high quality solar modules, as well as a leading developer of rooftop and utility scale solar, has been working on a  a residential battery storage project in Australia that has indicated could become a template for its energy service models around the world.

It has revealed few details of the project to date, but on Friday indicated it was going well and could be expanded to the commercial market within the next 12 months.

“In Australia, our residential storage pilot is going well, and we expect to expand storage to the commercial channel in this market next year,” President and CEO Tom Werner told analysts in a conference call accompanying the second quarter results.

In the US, SunPower has already struck an agreement with KB Homes to have solar installed in new homes, and is considering expanding this to include storage. Werner has said in the past that SunPower would focus on the “home energy services” market, taking his company beyond a mere supplier of modules to providing services within the home.

This is considered to be an even bigger existential threat to incumbent business models than the mere arrival of renewable energy technologies.

Meanwhile, SunPower has confirmed it has been contracted to design and build the 3.1MW expansion of Epuron’s Uterne solar power station in Alice Springs, a job that will effectively quadruple the size of the PV tracking plant, from 1MW to 4.1MW.

SunPower – the original owners of Uterne, before selling to Epuron in October 2012 – will again install its high-efficiency PV panels, mounted on SunPower trackers which follow the sun throughout the day, increasing the panels’ energy production and minimizing land use. The additional 3.1MW will be installed on 3 hectares, adjacent to the existing plant.uterne

The upgrade of Uterne – originally a product of the former federal government’s $94 million Solar Cities program – is being backed by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which announced in July it would put $13 million towards the project.

Once complete (completion is slated for sometime in 2015), the plant – which already supplies electricity to the local grid – is expected to power around 1,000 Alice Springs homes a year, reducing the communities reliance on gas and diesel-fired generation.

Uterne has a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA) with the Northern Territory’s Power and Water Corporation (PWC) – struck when the 1MW development was first commissioned in June 2011 as part of the Alice Solar City program – that will be extended to purchase the electricity produced by the 3.1MW expansion.

“This project is a good example of bringing together an Australian company with leading global expertise to make the most of our abundant solar resources,” said CEFC CEO Oliver Yates. “The CEFC has identified huge, untapped potential for utility-scale solar power in this country and the … financing for Uterne demonstrates the potential for these projects.”

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