Solarcity which is the largest US Solar Installer has got sued by Sunpower for stealing trade secrets. Note Sunpower which was recently bought by French Oil Giant Total is facing tough times. Sunpower which makes the most efficient solar panels in the world is facing tough competition from super cheap Chinese solar panels. In fact according to Total CEO the company would have been already bankrupt with Total support. Beside making solar panels, Sunpower is also one of the biggest solar integrators and developers. The company has been in the business of installing solar panels after it acquired solar system intstaller Powerlight.
Sunpower another of the biggest solar companies in the world too is surviving due to its big parent Total.Note the CEO of Total was candid enough to say that Sunpower would be facing Chapter 11 without its support.Total just increased stake in Sunpower as the company continues to make losses.Sunpower has a high cost structure which in these times means you are dead .Even the most cost efficient companies in the West like First Solar faces survival questions.Sunpower with its high cost and high efficiency solar panels would have been dead by now.Note Sunpower too has a bad balance sheet,contorted accounting (already faced a scandal).In fact there are similarities between Sunpower and LDK.
Solarcity has been the fastest growing solar installer in the USA rapidly expanding across the US geography entering new states. Now the company faces charges that former Sunpower employees stole confidential data and gave it to Solarcity.The lawsuit alleges top former officials like Tom Leyden, a Managing Director for the company’s East Operations of stealing highly confidential data from the company’s SalesForce database with information on the company’s major customers accounting for over $100 million in sales for 2011 .SunPower is holding five former employees criminally liable under California Penal Code § 502(c)
Silicon Valley-based solar panel giant SunPower sued five former employees and competitor SolarCity today, contending that shortly before they left SunPower, the employees connected USB drives to the company’s computer network, “and used them to steal tens-of-thousands of computer files” with confidential and non-confidential proprietary information.
In addition to civil damages and injunctive relief, SunPower also wants to hold the ex-employees criminally liable for violating a California lawprohibiting unauthorized computer data access and fraud.
List of Top US Solar Installers
1) SunEdison/MEMC – US Polysilicon and Wafer Producer MEMC bought Sunedison which was one of the largest solar installers in 2008.Now MEMC is strongly expanding the system installation business not only in the US but other parts of the world like India,Europe,Korea,Canada and other places.The company recently installed one of the biggest solar plants in the world in Rovigo,Italy
2) Sunpower – Sunpower is a vertically integrated solar energy company known more for its highest efficiency solar panels.The company bought Powerlight a few years ago to enter the solar systems market and has bolstered the business constantly to become a major global installer.Sunpower is present in all 3 segments of the solar sytems business namely a)residential b)commercial and c) utility. It is one of the largest US installers and has recently won a number of large utility contracts for building solar farms.
3) First Solar – First Solar is the largest producer of solar panels in the world using its properietary thin film technology.The company is also one of the biggest utility solar system developer in the world focusing mainly on the North American Market.The company has built and sold the world’s largest solar farms in Sarnia,Ontario.The company has beefed up its solar installation business by buying project development teams and pipelines from Ausra,OptiSolar Turner etc.
4) Sharp/Recurrent Energy – Sharp recently bought Recurrent Energy one of the large independent solar power developers and system integrator in the US.Sharp already had a big presence in the California market where it is now facing increasing competition from the low cost Chinese players like Trina Solar,Yingli etc.
5) REC Solar - The Norwegian based Solar Company REC has started it solar system in the US a year or two ago and has managed to win some contracts..It is targeting all the 3 segments and is present in the major solar states of the US like New Jersey and Californa.It claims to be the largest residential solar installer in California with 17 MW of installations in 2010.
6) Solarworld - Another European company like REC,Solarworld is mainly targeting the utility and big commercial market recently winning a 11.6 MW order from LADWP.The company has a big manufacturing facility in Oregon and has aggressive expansion plans in the US as its domestic German market slows down.
7) Mitsui/Sunwize - Mitsui,the giant Japanese tradings house bought Sunwize in 2006 to enter the solar system market in the US.Note Mitsui is not a big solar panel producer like Sharp,Panasonice and others.The company sells mainly in Oregon and Californai and targets all the 3 segments of the market
The Solar Financing/Leasing Companies
8 ) Sungevity - Sungevity is a California company targeting the residential market through a solar leasing plan.It extensively uses the Internet to design the system and has a JV with US Bank to provide financing to its customers.
9) SolarCity - SolarCity is a full-service solar provider for commercial and residential customers and does solar power system design, financing, installation and monitoring services from a single source.SolarCity is introduced a new solar lease option, called SolarLease.It also has other options like PPA .The company’s footprint extends to Arizona, California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington D.C.