One of SunPower’s largest customers was PowerLight. PowerLight had pioneered a new way to install PV panels on flat commercial roofs that involved no roof penetrations. Prior to their invention, the common wisdom was that panels should be mounted on steel frames that tilted the panels south to receive the most sun. Installing the frames required many roof penetrations for anchoring, a tedious and time consuming task that was disliked by building owners due to the potential for roof leaks. Tom Dinwiddie, PowerLight’s founder, discovered a way to interlock panels that simply lay on the roof such that wind could not blow them off. This resulted in vastly reduced installation cost and time, and catapulted PowerLight to the PV largest installer in the world. From this beginning, PowerLight became a leader in ground mounted power plants that use trackers to
Figure 5. Large SunPower PV power plant using tracking structures to follow the sun.
follow the sun. Tracking the sun results in more energy delivered throughout the day. PowerLight loved our panels because they could get 50% more power off of the same installation. We liked PowerLight’s innovative products and understanding of PV customers, so we decided to merge with them. SunPower thereby became in integrated company covering the PV value chain all the way from growing silicon crystals to installing systems at customer sites. Figure 5 shows one of SunPower’s large-scale PV power plants.