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vREM INTERVIEW: "The US PV market is perhaps ten years behind Europe, but is growing quickly," Richard Swanson, Founder of SunPower

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Renewable Energy Magazine caught up with Richard Swanson, Founder of solar giant SunPower, at the recent 25th European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition in Valencia (Spain). During the vER video interview, Swanson explains why SunPower’s high-efficiency solar panels are so important in this sector and about the current state of play of the photovoltaics (PV) industry worldwide.

"Europe is the centre of gravity of PV, although the US is finally starting to catch up with Europe," says Swanson, which is great news for the PV industry that aims to grow and gain market share worldwide.

Some 25 years ago, this Stanford University professor was one of the founders of what has become one of the most renowned PV companies. Swanson recalls that back in 1985, the vision for PV was of giant solar farms in the desert generating power to be pumped into our cities. A vision which took two decades to become reality. In 2008, for example, SunPower signed an agreement with Californian utility PG&E to build a huge 210-MW ground-based array in San Luis Obispo County, California (US). Since then an additional 40 MW of capacity has been added and when complete, the 250-MW California Valley Solar Ranch is expected to be one of the largest photovoltaic solar power plants in the world.

Despite the importance of ground-based solar farms today, Swanson highlights that the solar market did not start to take shape until the Japanese realised the benefit of putting solar cells on roofs because “PV unique in its ability to generate power right where you need it”. This big change, which Swanson describes as the moment when the “killer application” was discovered, took place in the 1990s.

This vREM video interview is available on the Renewable Energy Magazine homepage.

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