SunPower Solar Panels Review

Today we are going to write sunpower solar panels review. SunPower has been considered as the world’s leading solar cell and panel maker since the introduction of the high-performance IBC cells in 2007. Sunpower, now known as Maxeon Solar Technologies, continues to manufacture the world’s most efficient solar panels based on the patented IBC cell technology, as well as offering the best performance warranty in the industry, with a minimum 92 percent guaranteed rated output after 25 years. Sunpower’s more affordable P series panels provide excellent quality and performance, as well as a 25-year product warranty.

  • 360W – 500W power rating (W)
  • Very high efficiency (percentage) – 19.8% – 22.8 percent
  • Premium N-type and shingled cells are used in cell technology.
  • Price range: Medium to Extremely Expensive $$$$$
  • Maxeon 3, 400W is the most efficient panel.
  • Excellent 25-year product warranty.
  • Very good service and support 5/5.
  • Overall, this book is highly recommended.

Company background

SunPower Corporation has a long history in the solar business and has long been considered as a technology leader. This is a bold assertion, but it’s difficult to argue with them because they now manufacture the most efficient home solar panel on the market, the Maxeon 3, with the lowest degradation and highest performance warranty. High performance, like most things, comes at a cost, and SunPower panels are among the most expensive on the market.

SunPower began in a laboratory in the early 1980s and became SunPower in 1988. After collecting finance from investors, the R&D team collaborated with Honda to produce record-breaking PV cells employing sophisticated cell technology (as used by NASA) to win the world solar challenge automobile race in Australia. These accomplishments established SunPower as one of the world’s leading solar cell manufacturers, as well as laying the groundwork for today’s high-efficiency Maxeon IBC cells.

SunPower Splits into two companies

Sunpower stated in 2019 that it would split into two separate public companies, SunPower and Maxeon Solar, each concentrating on a different market niche.

  • SunPower’s distribution, sales, and installation of solar panels, energy storage, and related products will be solely focused on the North American solar market.
  • Maxeon Solar Technologies, or ‘Maxeon Solar,’ will be the global developer, distributor, and producer of SunPower Maxeon cells and solar panels.
SunPower Solar Panels Review
SunPower cells used on the SolarStratos solar powered aircraft – Image credit SunPower Corp

SunPower established and built advanced facilities in the United States, Mexico, Europe, and Asia to manufacture high-efficiency solar panels during the 2000s. Only LG Energy’s Neon R panel series, which uses a comparable IBC cell technology, has been able to compete at the same level of efficiency and performance over the last decade.

SunPower, on the other hand, hasn’t had it easy. Due to high overhead expenses and pressure from highly competitive Chinese and Korean panel producers, the company has had substantial financial problems and has accumulated a significant amount of debt in recent years. SunPower had to restructure its business and production operations due to financial difficulties, but things are looking up now. This article from PV-Tech contains a detailed company analysis.

Maxeon IBC Cells

SunPower launched mass manufacturing of the high-performance IBC or Interdigitated Back Contact cells in 2007 and has been at the forefront of the industry ever since, using the most efficient solar cell technology available today. Unlike conventional monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar cells, which gather current via front-mounted busbars and fingers, IBC cells contain a tiny grid of conductors embedded into the cell’s back side. The IBC cell, dubbed ‘Maxeon’ by SunPower, has a grid of N-type and P-type silicon on the back side, which improves efficiency by removing the requirement for front-exposed busbars that partially shade the cell. The SunPower IBC cells are made of high-purity N-type silicon, which improves efficiency and performance while also having a low rate of degradation; this is the foundation of SunPower’s industry-leading performance warranty of 92 percent capacity retention after 25 years on both the Maxeon 2 and Maxeon 3 series panels.

SunPower Maxeon IBC cell construction diagram – Image credit Sunpower Corp

SunPower’s current generation (3 & 4) IBC cells are 5” (125mm x 125mm) in size and are organised in a 96-cell arrangement with 8 rows of 12 cells. Almost all other companies have switched to the 6” (156mm x 156mm) cell size, which makes up a typical 60 cell panel. More cells equate to a larger voltage, which can be troublesome for household installations with a voltage restriction of 600V. (depending on the country). With a greater voltage, fewer panels can be connected in a string before reaching the maximum voltage.

New 104 cell format

SunPower’s latest generation panels, the Maxeon 2 and Maxeon 3, are based on a novel 104 cell configuration with 8 rows of 13 gen-3 cells, resulting in the world’s most powerful home solar panel at 400Wp. The Maxeon 3 panels, which vary in power from 370 to 400 watts, replaced the older X Series, while the Maxeon 2 panels, which range in power from 340 to 360 watts, replaced the older E series.

Shingled Cells

Shingled cells are a new type of cell that is made up of overlapping thin cell strips that are placed horizontally or vertically across the screen. The SunPower P series panels, which are detailed in greater detail below, have a vertical format with six long cell strips connected in parallel. This has a number of advantages, including improved shade tolerance when partially shadowed because each long cell is self-contained. Thin shingled cells are also more flexible and less susceptible to micro-cracking, which is a common problem with full-size square cells. These are manufactured by laser cutting a full-size cell into 5 or 6 strips and laying them in a shingle pattern using back side connecting adhesive. A single busbar joins the cell strips and is hidden by the tiny overlap of each cell strip. Because it does not require front side busbar connections, which partially shade the cell, this unique design covers more of the panel surface area, enhancing panel efficiency similar to IBC cells.

The P series uses traditional P-type silicon, which is less efficient than the Maxeon IBC cells’ high-performance N-type silicon. It is, however, significantly more cost-effective, with a decent efficiency of 20.4 percent. The SunPower 25 manufacturer’s warranty also applies to the P series.The P series uses traditional P-type silicon, which is less efficient than the Maxeon IBC cells’ high-performance N-type silicon. It is, however, significantly more cost-effective, with a decent efficiency of 20.4 percent. The SunPower 25 manufacturer’s warranty also applies to the P series.

The SunPower Range Of Panels

While SunPower’s famed Maxeon series panels are among the best-performing in the world, the Performance series offers a varied selection of panels for residential, commercial, and utility-scale solar installations. The new Maxeon 2 and 3 series panels superseded the earlier E and X series panels, which competed in the premium market by using the same high-efficiency IBC cells. The P-series panels have a unique overlapping shingle cell design that completes more in the commercial sector at a lower cost. It’s worth mentioning that many of the Maxeon 5 and Performance series panels are also available from Enphase Energy as AC panels with built-in micro inverters.

  • 400W Maxeon 3
  • 360W Maxeon 2
  • 390W to 415W Maxeon 5 Series
  • 370W to 500W in the Performance Series

Maxeon 3

The SunPower Maxeon 3 is the company’s new flagship model, with sizes ranging from 370 to 400 watts for residential installations. The new 104 cell configuration, based on Gen 3 high-performance IBC cell technology, enhances power production and tops the range with an amazing 22.8 percent maximum efficiency, making it the world’s most efficient solar panel.

Maxeon 2

The new Maxeon 2 panel, like the Maxeon 3, is based on the Gen 3 high-performance IBC cell technology and uses the same 104 cell format to boost power production even more, with a maximum efficiency of 20.4 percent. The Maxeon 2 panels, however, have a lower power rating of 340 to 360W because they are built on the somewhat lower-spec IBC cells, making them more inexpensive while still being some of the most efficient home solar panels available.

Maxeon 5 Series

The Next Generation Technology IBC (Interdigitated Back Contact) ‘Gen 5’ cells are used in SunPower’s next-generation A series AC panels and the new Maxeon 5 series. These new larger format 6” IBC cells are manufactured on a new line at the company’s Malaysian manufacturing facility.

The new architecture is built into panels that range in power from 390 to 415 watts, making them among of the most powerful residential panels on the market. The A series version of the Maxeon 5 panel uses an Enphase energy microinverter and is presently only available in the United States.

Performance Series

The Performance series, or P series panels, employ a unique shingled cell architecture with 6 long strings of shingled cells in parallel, as previously mentioned. When partially shaded, this design is more cost-effective and provides higher shade tolerance. Thin solitary PERC cells, which are built on common P-type silicon, are more flexible and resistant to micro-cracking, which is a common problem with full-size square cells. The P series comes in three sizes: smaller residential panels rated from 370 to 390 watts, bigger format commercial panels rated from 405 to 420 watts, and extra-large utility size panels rated from 475 to 500 watts.

Warranty And Service

SunPower’s Maxeon 2, 3, and 5 series panels, which use the ultra-reliable Maxeon IBC cells based on high purity N-type silicon, come with a leading performance warranty. With a guarantee of 92 percent capacity retention after 25 years of usage, the X series has an outstanding warranty.

“The power of the PV Modules will be at least 98 percent of the Minimum Peak Power2 rating for the first year, and will decline by no more than 0.25 percent per year for the following 24 years, so the power output at the end of the 25th year warranty period will be at least 92 percent of the Minimum Peak Power2 rating,” according to the SunPower warranty certificate.

Sustainability

SunPower has long been the industry leader in terms of sustainability, and it is the only manufacturer we are aware of that employs a fully closed-loop approach. SunPower’s philosophy is to promote environmentally friendly business practises throughout the product life cycle and beyond. SunPower was named the winner of pv magazine’s first annual Sustainability Award as a result of this initiative.

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