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US power player buys Solar Sales

Belmont-based solar panel distributor Solar Sales has been bought by US company SunPower Corporation, marking the Silicon Valley-based company's first entry into the Australian solar market.

Nasdaq-listed SunPower designs and manufactures high-efficiency solar electric systems worldwide for residential, commercial and utility-scale power plant customers.

SunPower had been providing modules to Solar Sales for a number of years in the latter's role as sole Australia distributor for the US company.

Solar Sales has been supplying solar panels and inverters to the Australian market for more than 25 years, and has built a network of 30 dealers nationwide.

While its business is predominantly in the residential market, Solar Sales has also been involved in the design and installation of a number of small-scale commercial solar projects, with clients including Hamersley Iron.

The acquisition went ahead despite the federal government's recent decision to means test the solar rebate for households, which was strongly opposed by the industry.

But SunPower vice-president of corporate strategy, Peter Aschenbrenner, said the company believed there was strong potential in the Australian solar market.

He said the shift towards a favourable longer-term policy environment, with the introduction of feed-in tariffs by the states and a national emissions trading scheme, was supportive of renewables,

"We're always on the lookout for new markets. We liked what we saw in the Australian market. There's a lot of sunlight and a lot of single family homes, which is good for putting solar panels on roofs," Mr Aschenbrenner told WA Business News.

"Specifically with Solar Sales, we liked the management team; they were very successful in communicating the value proposition of our products and they seemed to get a lot of traction, particularly in the residential market."

Mr Aschenbrenner said the company would look to open offices in the eastern states soon, with all current staff and management to stay on.

Solar Sales managing director Bob Blakiston will stay on as managing director of SunPower Australia, following the impending name change.

Headquartered in San Jose California, SunPower has offices throughout North America, Europe and Asia. The company has about 4,000 staff worldwide, with revenues of $US1.4 billion.

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