2021 SunPower Solar Panel Review: Is It Worth the Extra Cost?

review SunPower panel

It is safe to say solar power is having its moment in the sun, with over 2 million Aussie households currently earning their keep from the roof over their heads. Though going solar might look like the natural next step to take, you’re likely to find yourself befuddled by the multitude of solar panel manufacturers offering a plethora of models. 

So, rather than skim through SunPower solar panel review after review, let us give you the lowdown on one of the top-tier solar system manufacturers available in Australia.

Keep reading to find out more!

PROS:

  • Market leader with 22.6% efficiency
  • New 400 W panel
  • Temperature coefficient of -0,3% / °C
  • Revolutionary IBC cell technology
  • Exclusive shingled cell design
  • Cradle to Cradle certified

CONS:

  • Premium pricing
  • Few authorized installers 
Efficiency5
Strength and durability5
Warranty5
Value for money4.5
Performance – temperature coefficient5

SunPower Company Overview

Established in Silicon Valley in April 1985, SunPower always aimed to prove itself on the international solar module market. The company was co-founded by Dr. Richard Swanson, a Stanford Professor of Electrical Engineering who kickstarted SunPower’s successful journey, and now offers an extensive range of both commercial and residential solar solutions. We can safely say that today SunPower is in truly exclusive company at the summit of the solar power industry, with its Maxeon 3 solar panel secure in first place as the most efficient solar panel in Australia.

After a recent investment of $300 million by Tianjin Zhonghuan Semiconductor Co. in 2020, SunPower was divided into SunPower and Maxeon Solar. Headquartered in Singapore, the Maxeon Solar division is now in charge of manufacturing the solar panels, which retain the SunPower brand name. Maxeon Solar has a number of production locations in France, Mexico, Malaysia, China, and the Philippines. 

Instead of using wholesalers or distributors, SunPower sells its panels through an authorized installer, who also performs all servicing. SunPower has an office in Elsternwick, Victoria, as well as a free Australian phone number for contact. 

The folks at SunPower proudly point out their continued cooperation with NASA, which has been sending SunPower solar panels to space on a variety of missions since 1997, as a hallmark of the type of quality and standing they aspire to. The company is also proud that a car powered by SunPower panels won the Australian World Solar Challenge race back in 1993.

SunPower Panel Cell Technology

The technology manufacturers put into making solar cells as powerful, efficient, and long-lasting as possible changes every year. It is where brands invest the big R&D and marketing dollars, so if you want to stay abreast of the latest developments and stay ahead of the salesman jargon, this is the section to focus on.

Another word of advice: before you do anything, make sure you have a dependable solar installer – this makes everything else run smoothly. When you choose an authorized installer, you can be sure you will receive quality and dependable service, as the installer’s reputation depends on it. A good installer will ask you a few general questions about your goals in terms of solar power production, your monthly electricity bill, and look into the state of your roof before they give you a plan and an estimate of the installation cost. SunPower’s partners are known to meet the highest operational and training standards and will counsel you on various local permitting laws and incentives.

Now let’s take a look at some of the SunPower models available in Australia and their technical specs.

SunPower’s Maxeon 2

SunPower’s Maxeon 2 is a panel ideal for residential use. It is made with third-generation Interdigitated Back Contact (IBC) cell technology in a 104-cell format, packing an efficiency of 20.4%. IBC cells were first introduced by SunPower in 2007 as an innovative way to squeeze out every last volt from the available panel surface. IBC panels have a grid of conductors installed on the back, as opposed to regular PERC cells which need busbars mounted in the front to collect current. SunPower’s IBC or ‘Maxeon’ cell design uses N-type or P-type silicon grids on the rear side and removes the front-mounted busbars that can partially shade the cells. It’s a complex technology to pull off – and the increase in price reflects that – but is one of the ways SunPower makes the industry’s most efficient panel.

SunPower’s Maxeon 3

Maxeon 3, SunPower’s flagship solar module, comes in 370 and 400 W versions. Primarily intended for residential purposes, this model combines monocrystalline IBC N-type cells set up in a 104-cell format to provide high efficiency of 22.8%.   

The Performance Series 

The Performance Series panels are based on a special shingled cell technology, set up in 6 long parallel strings. The design makes these panels more cost-efficient and offers decent performance even in partially shaded conditions. Although based on standard P-type silicon, the shingled PERC cells are less likely to crack than traditional full-sized cells. The P Series  SunPower modules are available in three versions: residential panels with power ratings from 370-390W, commercial solar modules rated 405-420W, and utility size systems ranging from 475-500W.

SunPower flexible solar panels are a practical solution for outdoor activities or emergency cases. These SunPower modules weigh only 5lbs and are just 46 inches tall and 22 inches wide, meaning they are super portable and can be taken anywhere. Due to their flexibility of up to 30 degrees, these small solar systems are easy to transport and install.

SunPower Modules Features

Efficiency

Efficiency is the most important metric to look for when investing in a solar system, as it indicates the rate at which a panel can transform solar power into usable electricity. This is a crucial feature, as even 1% more or less can make a huge difference in the power generated over the lifespan of the module – and on your return on investment accordingly.

In this regard, SunPower is the current leader of the pack, having released the most efficient solar module in the world in 2019. SunPower’s Maxeon 3 is still the best panel on the solar market, boasting an efficiency of 22.6%. Its less efficient relatives, Maxeon 2 and Performance 3, still put on a strong showing with efficiencies of 20.4% and 19.9% respectively.

Energy Generation

SunPower’s solar modules also provide impressive energy generation levels, with models ranging from 310W up to 400W. Note that those are top-of-the-line values for residential systems. 

SunPower began implementing Interdigitated Back Contact (IBC) cell technology in 2007 and it seems to have made quite a difference in terms of the efficiency of their solar modules. In comparison to standard mono- and polycrystalline cells, where busbars and fingers are mounted in the front, IBC solar cells have a grid of conductors on the backside. Getting rid of the frontal busbars helps maximize the surface area exposed to the sun, as they cover and shade a portion of the cells. Maxeon IBC cell technology uses N-type and P-type silicon of high purity, which improves performance and reduces the degradation rate of the panel. 

Degeneration Rate

While it is normal for the performance of a solar module to gradually degenerate over time, SunPower promises one of the lowest degradation rates, estimated at 0.25% a year. This puts SunPower ahead of its competitors, as solar panels are known to degrade 2.5% during the first year of use and 0.7% for every year after. The Maxeon series is warranted to retain 92% of the energy generation even after 25 years of operation.

Cell Technology

SunPower has one more ace up its sleeve and another innovation in cell technology in its Performance series. Solar shingles technology uses thin cells which overlap vertically or horizontally on the panel, improving performance in partially shaded conditions. These cells are also less prone to cracking, unlike regular full-sized cells. The latest generation of SunPower solar cells are lined in 8 rows of 12 for a total of 96 cells per panel. Other manufacturers typically make 60-cell panels.

Residential vs Commercial Use

With the most recent addition of the P-series, SunPower offers a wide range of both residential and commercial panels. The Maxeon range has replaced the SunPower X-series and E-series as the leading SunPower residential solar modules. The P-series is also well-positioned on the market with its competitive price and cutting-edge shingle cell technology.

Generally, when the temperature rises above 25°C, the panel’s electricity generation progressively diminishes by a certain temperature coefficient. If your system is in a location that frequently sees hot temperatures, you’d do well to look for panels with the lowest temperature coefficient. SunPower modules currently have an excellent rating in this area: the SunPower X21 345 panel has a temperature coefficient of -0.3% / °C. 

Design 

A popular solar system, especially one intended for residential use, should not disregard the design. Most solar modules offer simple, elegant lines, and the SunPower design doesn’t disappoint, particularly the black frame and backsheets of the Performance series. The thicker frame (40 mm) is designed to both support the 19 kg weight of the panel as well as give off the impression of lightness and elegance. But don’t take our word for it: it’s easy to see that SunPower solar systems don’t look bulky or unwieldy once they are up on the roof.

Sustainability 

SunPower has a company policy to be as sustainable as the energy it produces, aiming to stand as a leader among solar suppliers in Australia and across the globe. It recently took another step towards realizing this goal by achieving another first: its panels were the first solar modules in the world to be Cradle to Cradle-certified. This is a scoring system that assesses a brand’s dedication to sustainability and its contributions towards a circular economy by reducing waste, eliminating the use of hazardous chemicals, and responsibly using and reusing materials.

Difference Between SunPower Solar Panels Models

From the high-performing  Maxeon Series to the affordable Performance Series, SunPower has a number of models for both residential and commercial use. The previous E and X series are replaced by the Maxeon 2 and 3 models, intended for a more high-end market, whereas the P-series performs better on the commercial market. 

The key SunPower solar panels specs for models currently on the Australian market are listed in the table below.

ModelMaxeon 2Maxeon 3Performance 3 Performance 3 Commercial
EfficiencyUp to 20.4%Up to 22.6%Up to 19.9%20.4%
High energy output1000V1000V1000V1500V
Cell technology104 Monocrystalline Maxeon Gen II104 Monocrystalline Maxeon Gen IIMonocrystalline PERCMonocrystalline PERC
Energy generationUp to 360 WUp to 400WUp to 335W420W
Monocrystalline panelsYesYesYesYes
Type of useSuitable for residential useSuitable for residential use Suitable for residential useSuitable for commercial use
Weight19 kg19 kg18.1 kg22 kg
Frame thickness40 mm40 mm35 mm35 mm
DesignMinimalistic, durable designMinimalistic, durable designElegant, sleek black design with shingled cell technologyElegant, sleek black design with shingled cell technology
Degeneration rate0.5%0.5%0.25%0.25%
Number of cells104104Shingled cell design with 6 long cells in parallelShingled cell design with 6 long cells in parallel
SustainabilitiesCradle to Cradle CertifiedTM (Pending)IEC 61215IEC 61730ISO 9001:2015ISO 14001:2015IEC 62716Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM IEC 61215IEC 61730ISO 9001:2008 ISO 14001:2004OHSAS 18001:2007IEC 62716MIL-STD-810GIEC 61701 IEC 61215 IEC 61215IEC 61730ISO 9001:2008 ISO 14001:2004OHSAS 18001:2007 Recycling Scheme

SunPower Warranty

By now, all solar panel producers offer replacements in the event of a manufacturing defect or an environmental issue. While most solar module companies offer warranties of 12 or 15 years, SunPower joins LG and REC in offering an industry-leading product warranty of 25 years. Where SunPower goes beyond the standards set by the competition is its SunPower Complete Confidence Warranty program, the only warranty that offers coverage for the entire SunPower solar system, not just the panels. This means all repairs and replacements are done at no additional cost, with no receipts or proof of purchase required. We’ve already mentioned that SunPower also guarantees that the primary DC output of their solar modules won’t degrade by more than 8% in the first 25 years of use.

In the unfortunate event you experience an issue with your solar system, don’t hesitate to contact SunPower tech support. The exceptional SunPower customer service is available via email, chat, or phone.

SunPower Solar Panels Price in Australia

OK, we get it – it’s a progressive company with an excellent product. But just how much do SunPower solar panels cost? Take look at the table below to get a general idea about the average SunPower solar panels prices for various system sizes:

System sizeAverage SunPower solar panels cost
10 kW$12,574
8 kW$10,195
6 kW$7,907

SunPower offers three financing options:

  • Cash purchase – the easiest way to finance a solar system; involves buying a solar module directly, allowing customers to make use of local incentives
  • Power Purchase Agreement – suitable for businesses or government agencies to acquire solar modules without an upfront capital cost
  • Lease – works like a regular lease agreement, offering the use of solar systems at a monthly lease rate 

For a detailed SunPower price list, as well as information on current discounts, rebates, special offers, or financing options contact the regional SunPower installer. 

Customer Reviews

We try to be objective and present little more than facts and clear-eyed analyses, but SunPower has pulled out all the stops to convince us of its single-minded pursuit of excellence and unrivalled product quality. The company has cemented its position among the leaders on the Australian solar module market and its many customers should gladly confirm this. SunPower’s 4.8 customer satisfaction rating speaks for itself. Most customers express delight at how well their SunPower solar system works in partially shaded conditions and overcast weather, while others are pleased with the design and how it looks on their roof. The recognition SunPower receives is potentially matched only by LG and REC, whose customer satisfaction score is also 4.8 out of 5.

SunPower Solar Panels Alternatives 

REC Solar Panels vs SunPower

REC’s Alpha series boasts the highest efficiency in their range, up to 21.7%. SunPower looks to match REC’s flagship with the Maxeon 2, which maxes out at 20.4% efficiency. In terms of energy generation levels, the Maxeon 2 produces 360 watts, falling slightly short of the Alpha 380 W power output.

Winaico vs SunPower 

The Taiwanese company’s latest GEMINI series is available in two sizes, both of which have efficiencies of 20.4%, matching SunPower’s Maxeon 2. Looking at energy generation, Winaico’s GEMINI reaches 375 W, topping Maxeon 2 by 15 W. In terms of price, Winaico’s solar modules are only slightly more affordable, with the average cost of a fully-installed 10 kW system reaching $11,000, including a 25-year warranty.

Q Cells vs SunPower 

Q Cells produces a solar module similar to SunPower’s P3 (370-390 W). The Q Cells Q.MAXX-G3 is a 375 W module, with 19.8% efficiency. The price of Q Cells panels falls in the $2.30-$2.49 per watt range, which is quite competitive considering the national average of $2.85. Similarly to their competitors, Q Cells offer a 12-year product warranty and a linear performance warranty of 25 years. SunPower’s 390W module also has an efficiency of 19.9%, but costs $320 per panel and comes with a 25-year warranty. 

Is SunPower Worth It?

Not many solar suppliers in Australia can match SunPower’s solar panels. Everything from the signature SunPower design to the confidence-inspiring warranty has helped the company achieve worldwide success and an impeccable reputation. But quality comes at a premium. The only downside is that, for some, these systems may require breaking the piggy bank. If money is no obstacle or if you are prepared to invest in excellence to profit down the line, the supreme SunPower efficiency, temperature coefficient, and overall performance will not let you down. 

FAQs

1.Where are SunPower panels made?

Most SunPower modules with the proprietary Maxeon technology are manufactured in Malaysia and the Philippines then sent to facilities in Mexico and France for assembly.

2.Where to buy SunPower solar panels?

If you’ve decided that a SunPower solar system is for you, visit their website or call their toll-free phone number to be connected to a certified installer in your area.

3.Is SunPower worth the extra cost?

If you are prepared to invest in state-of-the-art technology and have the budget to do it, SunPower really is the way to go. They offer outstanding features packaged in a distinguished design that is certain to add a fine touch to your home. 

4.Is SunPower the best solar panel?

At the moment, SunPower’s solar modules offer industry-leading efficiency, warranty, features, and design. A Bloomberg Tier 1 company and NASA partner, they have little competition in terms of sheer quality and standing.

5.How efficient are SunPower solar panels?

Currently, SunPower produces the solar modules with the highest efficiency in the world. SunPower panels offer efficiency of up to 22.8%, while typical solar panels are about 14-18% efficient.

6.How long do SunPower solar panels last?

It has been claimed that SunPower’s reliable solar systems can keep the power flowing for up to 40 years. As mentioned above in our SunPower solar panel review, thanks to their low degradation rates, these solar modules are estimated to supply up to 60% more power than a typical panel across a 25-year lifespan. 

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