SunPower followed up last week's tough earnings call with more hopeful news.
The veteran solar manufacturer and developer is launching a commercial energy storage business under the Helix commercial solar brand. It will design, install and operate the battery systems with its own software controls to manage demand charges and optimize solar generation.
In doing so, the company hopes to leverage the experience it has installing and overseeing commercial solar to date, which is unique among commercial storage providers.
“SunPower has a decade of experience monitoring nearly 1.7 gigawatts of commercial solar projects to best understand how they perform, giving us a unique advantage when maximizing the value of a complete solar-plus-storage solution,” said Norm Taffe, SunPower executive vice president for products, in a statement.
SunPower's focus on a hybrid solar and storage product sets it apart from commercial storage developers like Stem and AMS, which specialize in standalone batteries that reduce customer demand charges and dispatch to serve broader grid needs.
Still, the company's turn to commercial storage hints at the desperate times that last week's earnings report detailed.
The U.S. commercial storage market has sustained around 50 projects per quarter lately, almost entirely confined to California, where they rely on the Self-Generation Incentive Program to make deals pencil out.
The ebbs and flows of SGIP disbursements drive wild swings in deployment from quarter to quarter. The U.S. commercial storage market saw a record 13.9 megawatts deployed in Q2 last year, only to plunge 51 percent to 6.8 MW in Q3, according to GTM Research.
But the solar market isn't looking too balmy either.
President Donald Trump's 30 percent tariff on imported crystalline-silicon cells and modules has already delayed and scuttled SunPower projects, and prompted a hiring freeze and impending layoffs.
The company mostly manufactures overseas, and thus will get hit with tariffs if it wants to bring its American-designed materials into the country for American workers to install. SunPower hopes this can earn it an exemption, but that process has not yet been resolved.
CEO Tom Werner estimated the tariff will cut into company earnings by $50 million to $100 million.
Amid the gloom, GTM reported last week that there are some bright spots in the commercial and residential solar businesses, which have less exposure to the tariff than do utility-scale development and manufacturing. At the time, SunPower reported a 30 percent solar-plus-storage attachment rate for its commercial business — a measure of how many solar projects add on storage — and a project pipeline valued at $60 million.
Those numbers indicate the company's work with storage predates today's announcement. But now it has a brand to talk about.
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