Sunpower reports huge loss

November 4, 2011

SunPower Corp., a solar power company that received a last-minute Department of Energy loan in September, announced today that it lost more than $370 million in its fiscal third quarter – more than double its second-quarter loss – and that its chief financial officer would resign. [CaliforniaWatch]

The company said it also would likely lose money in its fourth quarter and would embark on a “reorganization” that would lead to job cuts. Earlier today, the company’s stock fell nearly seven percent before the third-quarter results were announced. The stock has dropped more than 50 percent since August.

Dennis Arriola, SunPower’s CFO, will resign in March, the company announced on a conference call for investors and analysts. Another executive, Jim Pape, who runs the company’s residential and commercial businesses, will leave this month, California Watch said.

“We are reorganizing the company to a regional business focus, a products group with product line profit and loss responsibility, and we will extend the responsibility of our upstream group to incorporate the research and development of our world-leading efficiency solar cell and panels,” SunPower CEO Tom Werner said on today’s call.

SunPower, which has teamed up with NRG Energy of Princeton, N.J., to build a giant 250-megawatt solar power plant in San Luis Obispo, got a $1.2 billion loan from the Department of Energy on Sept. 30, the last day of the department’s loan guarantee program. Just a month earlier, SunPower announced a $150 million loss in its second quarter, after losing about $2 million in its first quarter. The company has now lost $523 million for the year, California Watch added.

It is exspected that today’s announcement will intensify criticism of the Department of Energy loan program, with Republicans accusing the Obama administration of loaning money to alternative energy companies with poor financial track records.

House Republicans pounced on the loan program after Fremont-based Solyndra, which got $535 million in federal loans in September 2009, filed for bankruptcy less than two years later, shutting its doors and laying off more than 1,100 workers. President Barack Obama visited Solyndra in May 2010, praising the company, the Watch said.

Solyndra’s biggest investor, Oklahoma billionaire George Kaiser, bundled more than $50,000 in campaign contributions for Obama’s 2008 campaign, prompting Republicans to accuse the administration of showing political favoritism in approving Solyndra’s loan. The Obama administration has denied that Solyndra received preferential treatment, the Watch added.

California clean energy companies received more than $4.5 billion in the last days of the department’s loan program. While the department claimed that all loans were made on the companies’ merits, a California Watch investigation showed half of the first 10 loans were made without full vetting of the companies’ financials. Jonathan Silver, who leads the Department of Energy loan program, announced his resignation last month.

The White House announced last month that it would conduct an independent review of all $36 billion in loans the department made under the loan program, California watch said.


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23 Comments

  1. R.Hodin says:

    The U.S. doesn’t have the oil, gas, or the uranium to be energy-independent over the long term. But it does have enough sun, especially as part of the energy mix.

    As to the subsidy costs, if you don’t view energy dependency as a serious issue, then any amount given to develop alternatives to the big three will seem frivolous, right up until you start seeing $10 gas at the pumps. But if your priority is spending billions on wars overseas in a Sisyphean attempt to ensure foreign sources of oil from propped-up dictatorships, then that $10 cost shouldn’t come as a surprise.

    We are so far behind the curve on building solar and other alternatives it is utterly ridiculous.

    (4) 4 Total Votes - 4 up - 0 down
    • Typoqueen says:

      Gas is already $10+ a gallon in Europe but I do agree with you. There was a time when the people in this country didn’t want to be behind the curve, I’m afraid those days might be gone,,,for now.

      (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  2. Californiadiver says:

    Every one of us could solar panels on our homes. That scares the crap out of the nuke industry. How many of you have a coal mine in your backyard? How about an oil well? Didn’t think so. The sun is there for everyone.

    (5) 5 Total Votes - 5 up - 0 down
    • amusselm says:

      At least until nightfall…

      Solar is an alright, if somewhat expensive, energy source in and of itself. The catch is that even the best solar plants will not be able to beat ~30% capacity factor. At the very least, we can’t expect solar plants to produce power at night. Compare that to say, a late Generation II PWR like Diablo Canyon, which has a 95% capacity factor.

      (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
      • Typoqueen says:

        In some areas we can. I know people that live in this area that are %100 off the grid with the aid of solar.

        (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
      • Kettel says:

        It’s a problem already being worked on

        (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
        • Typoqueen says:

          Wow, that’s very cool, thanks for the link.

          (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
        • amusselm says:

          Then, you are effectively trading peak output for capacity factor. You can’t magically increase the average power you get from the plant by storing power. You need either better efficiency or more input to improve output.

          So, consider the current Carrizo Plains proposals. According to the SLO Tribune, the peak output of both projects is a respectable 800 MW, about 3/4ths of one of Diablo Canyon’s reactors. However, suppose we want better capacity factor out of the same footprint. Even if we have perfect energy storage, the output of the plant would fall to 240 Mw continuous. (800 Mw * 30% = 240 Mw ) And, here in the real-world we don’t have perfect energy storage.

          Now, that 240 Mw of average output comes at the cost of 8,686 acers of land. That’s 13.56 square miles. Assuming everything scales linearly, and you have the best land for solar, that would mean that replacing Diablo (which has an output of 2.2 Gw with a Capacity factor of 95%) with solar plants would require nearly 124 square miles of land (2200Mw*95%) / (240 Mw / 8686 Acers) = 75640 Acers. And that’s just one plant. Want to replace Moss Landing as well? Double the size.

          Now, I agree with the Carrizo Plains projects. Although they are pricey for their output, the provide a nice bit of additional output when you need it most. In in the future, I see some solar thermal plants like the one Kettel described come online for load following, which is something that present-day reactors do rather poorly. But, I doubt that it will work out for baseload. For that application, a modern, Generation III+ nuclear plant is far more economical and technically feasible.

          (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  3. Side_Show_Bob says:

    The entire solar industry is a farce and we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

    (1) 19 Total Votes - 10 up - 9 down
  4. Californiadiver says:

    I wonder how much the subsidies are for nuke power and why they don’t seem to be held to the same standard.

    (3) 13 Total Votes - 8 up - 5 down
    • BeenThereDoneThat says:

      If you look at the link provided and go down page to chart, you’ll see that Federal Taxper subsidies as a percent of total spending is 12.3% for solar and 20.9% for nuclear. Nuclear is more but not much.

      http://www.window.state.tx.us/specialrpt/energy/subsidies/

      (0) 6 Total Votes - 3 up - 3 down
      • Maxfusion says:

        Don’t forget the most important part of the equation. What are the KWh returns from both investments. If you’re attempting to defend the viability of solar, don’t bother, you’ll be really disappointed. The green weenie scam continues. This, and Solyndra are the tip of the iceberg. Hey I’ve got it, let’s allow these guys to build the Los Osos sewer.

        (12) 16 Total Votes - 14 up - 2 down
        • BeenThereDoneThat says:

          No not defending one way or the other. Just passing on information. Good point on the Kwh. I would be curious to see a chart on that.

          (0) 6 Total Votes - 3 up - 3 down
        • Kettel says:

          You have no idea what you are talking about.
          Postfu

          (-3) 7 Total Votes - 2 up - 5 down
      • Kettel says:

        BeenThereDoneThat you need to really read that link, You being misleading.

        Coal, gas and oil get 45% Percent of Total Federal Subsidies in 2006
        Solar gets 2.8%, Huge difference.

        (1) 7 Total Votes - 4 up - 3 down
        • BeenThereDoneThat says:

          NICE SPIN PAL!!!!!!!!!!!!

          Why don’t YOU go back and READ! The numbers I listed are EXACTLY like the numbers in exhibit 28-6 (upper left of chart is number) The numbers you listed are in chart 28-5

          The number YOU are talking about has to do with (and you even state) is with coal, gas and oil. Of COURSE that will change the equation!!! Go back up and READ my original remark to the poster. I was talking about NUCLEAR vs SOLAR!!! What are you talking about??!!!!

          Talk about having NO IDEA what one is talking about. And again as far as being misleading PLEASE tell me how. He said (Californiadiver) that he wondered if nuclear is held to same standard as solar. The link I provided did indeed show that yes he was right in his thinking. I just stated it wasn’t a huge difference. So there are all my FACTS backed up. How about you??

          (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
    • Typoqueen says:

      Yeah, and how about oil?

      (-5) 9 Total Votes - 2 up - 7 down
      • Maxfusion says:

        Similar dynamic and the “fly in the ointment” for alternative sources of energy. It’s impossible (with today’s technology) to economically compete with the output of the average oil well. Here’s a couple of interesting questions: How many acres of real estate must I cover with solar panels to match the energy output of one well? How many windmills must I construct to match the energy output of one oil well? (hint; ask Scotland) Nuclear, now that’s an entirely different discussion.

        (2) 6 Total Votes - 4 up - 2 down
        • BeenThereDoneThat says:

          Here’s something you may find interesting.

          http://www.321energy.com/editorials/bainerman/bainerman083105.html

          I read about this guy in Popular Mech. about four or five years ago. I am not saying if he is right or wrong. But just think, if this guy is right (which I hope he is) the ramifications for all the oil haters will be HUGE!!!

          (1) 5 Total Votes - 3 up - 2 down
        • Typoqueen says:

          I was wondering what type of subsidies the oil companies get. I remember reading about the subsidies but I can’t remember what they receive.

          (-5) 7 Total Votes - 1 up - 6 down
          • BeenThereDoneThat says:

            I’m not big on the subsidies either but that is a different arguement.

            The link I posted, if true, will have a hard time seeing the light of day because of the oil industry as they talked about in it. (article)

            P.S. and the neg isn’t mine.

            (-2) 2 Total Votes - 0 up - 2 down
    • Kettel says:

      2006 subsidies
      Nuclear $1,187,426,000
      Oil and Gas** $3,502,732,143
      Coal $2,754,908,000
      Solar $382,756,318

      (6) 6 Total Votes - 6 up - 0 down
      • Typoqueen says:

        I’m sure if Solar received even anything like what the others received that we wouldn’t be seeing all of these issues with solar energy producers financial problems and that we would be able to develop even more advanced alternative energy sources. The reason for subsidies is for exploration and to help get these things off the ground. Oil corps, nuke corps and standard old traditional energy companies don’t need these subsidies anymore, they are making record profits. Here we have an opportunity to beat China and explore and develop alternative energy and we are falling behind, we are going to let it slip between our fingers and give it it all to China.

        There is a certain segment of our population that just doesn’t care about a being number one in the world at anything and it’s the same segment that doesn’t believe that we need alternative energy, the flat earthers. Solar isn’t perfect, it has bugs to work out but I guarantee if they received the exploration subsidies that the oil corps received that we could once again become world leaders and make lots of $$.

        (0) 4 Total Votes - 2 up - 2 down

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