Maxeon Solar Cells: An Illustrative Guide to Sunpower’s Branded Solar Cell Technology

Crystalline silicon (c-Si) technology is used in 95% of solar cells manufactured worldwide, but the efficiency and performance are determined by variations in the structure of the cell. One of the best and most advanced solar cells featuring cutting-edge technology are the Maxeon solar cells, used by SunPower, one of the leading solar companies in the U.S. solar industry.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) solutions sold by SunPower implement Maxeon solar cell technology that delivers 60% more energy in 25 years and has achieved a world-record efficiency of 22.8%. In this article, we will review in-depth Maxeon solar cell technology, its key features, benefits, advantages, highlights, and more.

Maxeon Solar: Powering Positive Change

Why does SunPower use Maxeon solar cells?

SunPower is one of the leading solar installers in the U.S. solar industry, competing against companies like Tesla, SunRun, and Vivint Solar. PV products sold by SunPower feature Maxeon solar cell technology and there is a solid reason for that. SunPower initially manufactured the solar cells used for their PV modules, but the company grew too large and had to specialize.

In 2019, SunPower Corp. ceased manufacturing solar panels and created Maxeon Solar for that purpose. Now SunPower specializes in selling and installing PV solutions within the U.S., while Maxeon Solar creates cutting-edge patented solar technology and sells it on an international scale. Maxeon Solar is based in Singapore and is valued at $1.03 billion.

What are Maxeon solar cells and how are they different from conventional cells?

Maxeon solar cells feature a patented technology manufactured by Maxeon Solar; these cells are used to manufacture PV modules sold by Maxeon Solar and SunPower. In this section, we will explain the architectural differences between these solar cells that feature higher energy yields and a great performance compared to conventional cells.

Solid Copper Backing

Maxeon Cells: Solid Copper Backing vs Porous Metal Paste

Maxeon solar cells are manufactured over a solid copper base. This foundation is more resistant to corrosion than the porous metal paste used in conventional cells. The robust structure of Maxeon solar cells increases their durability and makes them practically invulnerable to corrosion and cracking.

Ultra-Pure Silicon

The photovoltaic material used to manufacture Maxeon solar cells is an ultra-pure high-quality monocrystalline silicon (mono c-Si). This material is superior to conventional impure mono c-Si used in traditional cells, and the result is a higher conversion efficiency than thin-film and P-type silicon solar cells.

Unique Light-Trapping Surface

Maxeon Solar Cells: Unique Light-Trapping Surface
Image: SunPower

To maximize sunlight absorption, Maxeon solar cells are embedded with a unique light-trapping surface. This material allows the passage of light but reduces its escape, which improves the general performance of the cell and increases its efficiency.

Thick Connectors

Solar cells expand and contract daily due to temperature swings; this puts heavy stress on the connectors of the cells. To prevent this, Maxeon solar cells introduce built-in thick connectors that are resistant to these temperature changes.

Bigger Conversion Area & Superior Aesthetics

Another feature increasing Maxeon solar cell efficiency and improving the aesthetics is the IBC technology. This technology relocates the connectors to the back of the cell, eliminating the grid lines; the result is a higher area of impact for sunlight and superior aesthetics in modules featuring the classic All-Black signature design of SunPower.

Benefits & advantages of implementing Maxeon solar cells onto solar panels

The solid investment of SunPower and Maxeon Solar in researching & developing Maxeon solar cell technology has resulted in solar cells that are far superior to traditional ones. Maxeon solar cells include unique features that deliver a wide range of benefits & advantages when used to manufacture solar panels; these are the main benefits & advantages.

More energy delivered over 25 years

Maxeon solar cell technology produces solar panels that yield more energy than traditional modules. SunPower & Maxeon Solar estimate that their PV modules produce 60% more energy than conventional modules in a period of 25 years, but the lifespan of the modules extends further on, up to 40 years.

Higher energy density with a superior efficiency

Maxeon solar cells produce PV modules featuring an efficiency of up to 22.8%; this efficiency is 1.45 times higher than the 16% efficiency of conventional modules. This provides the opportunity to install the same number of modules and produce more power at the array or produce the same power as a conventional PV system by installing fewer modules.

Leading reliability in extreme conditions

Maxeon solar cells are 4 times stronger than conventional ones and feature one of the lowest degradation rates in the industry at 0.2% per year; they also feature resistance against fatigue, corrosion, and hot spots. The reliability of these solar cells has been tested in 264 sites in over 800,000 panels over 8 years and it is backed by the PVEL Scoreboard.

Superior durability & sustainability, featuring one of the longest warranties in the industry

The major proof of work for the durability of Maxeon solar cells is the industry-leading warranty backing Maxeon Solar and SunPower PV modules, also making them more sustainable. Considering the 25-year average warranty for PV modules, Maxeon Solar & SunPower PV modules are proven to last 1.6 times than conventional ones and feature a 40-year industry-leading warranty.

Far superior aesthetics

The superior aesthetics is another advantage of implementing Maxeon solar cells onto PV modules. This is a result of Maxeon solar cells featuring IBC technology that makes cells entirely smooth, producing the Maxeon Solar & SunPower All-Black Performance signature modules.

Achievements of Maxeon solar cells

Maxeon solar cells have also accomplished remarkable achievements in world-leading applications beyond solar panel manufacturing, as a result of the superior design featured in the solar cells. Some of these achievements are the following:

Lightyear One

Lightyear has produced the Lightyear 0, the most efficient electric vehicle (EV) up to date, considering every weather condition and speed. This world record was achieved by driving 710 km (441 miles) on a single charge, made possible only by implementing Maxeon solar cells onto the surface of the EV, which extended the driving range of the EV on the road, increasing its autonomy and efficiency.

Solar Race Cars

Maxeon solar cells have been used to power over two dozen solar race cars around the world. Some of these include the Honda Dream (winner of the 1993 World Solar Challenge), the Stela Era (winner of the 2019 challenge), race cars designed by the Blue Sky Solar Racing team, and the solar race car that inspired the creation of the Lightyear 0.

SolarStratos

The SolarStratos is a unique plane powered by solar energy and designed to fly over the stratosphere to obtain unique scientific measurements during its flight. This solar airplane engineered by Calin Gologan & Electra Solar GmbH can fly without producing contaminating emissions, featuring Maxeon solar cells that power the aircraft.

Maxeon solar cells: Latest version available & upcoming upgrade

Maxeon Gen 6 solar cells are the latest available generation of Maxeon solar cells. They are used to produce M Series solar panels by SunPower and Maxeon 6 Solar Panels. The previously available cells were the Maxeon Gen 5 solar cells.

Gen 6 solar cells are 5% larger than the Maxeon Gen 5 solar cells, delivering an efficiency of 22.8%. These solar cells feature a low-temperature coefficient of -0.29%/ºC and include a patented design especially focused on making their cells deliver a great performance, and feature great robustness and reliability.

Maxeon Gen 7 solar cells are the next generation for this cutting-edge technology; they will be implemented in Maxeon 7 solar panels, expected to have a cost reduction and better performance. These solar cells will feature an architecture that lowers the operating temperature by reducing module circuitry, extending the advantages of IBC technology by further limiting the reverse voltage.

Maxeon Gen 6 solar cells against older versions & competitors

To better explain the superiority of Maxeon Gen 6 solar cells, we will compare them against Maxeon Gen 5 solar cells and other competing technologies.

Maxeon Gen 6 solar cells against the Gen 5

Maxeon Gen 5 solar cells are used for A Series SunPower modules and Gen 6 for M series. Both of them are relatively similar technologies, with the main difference being that Gen 6 cells are 5% larger than Maxeon Gen 5 solar cells. The size variation results in a power increase of 425W to 440W when wiring 66 cells to manufacture a solar panel. Operating temperature, temperature coefficient, and other specifications remain the same.

Maxeon Gen 6 Solar Cell against Q.ANTUM NEO CELLS

Q.ANTUM NEO CELLS are designed by QCells; this technology is used to produce Q.TRON Series solar panels. To compare Maxeon Gen 6 solar cells against Q.ANTUM NEO CELLS, we will compare PV modules manufactured with each respective technology.

 Maxeon Gen 6 Solar CellsQ.ANTUM NEO CELLS
Efficiency22.8%22.3%
Temperature Coefficient-0.29%/ºC-0.30%/ºC
Operating Temperature-40ºF – +185ºF (-40ºC – 85ºC)-40ºF – +185ºF (-40ºC – 85ºC)
Solar Cell ArchitectureIBC technologyPERC Technology
AestheticsAll-Black (Performance Series)Conventional aesthetics

As seen in the table above, Maxeon solar cells are superior to Q.ANTUM NEO CELLS, but there are only a few differences between them. Using IBC technology makes Maxeon solar cell efficiency to be higher and allows the possibility to produce All-Black PV modules, but the efficiency only differs by 0.5%, and the temperature coefficient by 0.01%/ºC. Aside from that, both technologies feature similar performances.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

There are many interesting questions regarding Maxeon solar cell technology. Here we aim to answer some of them.

What type of technology does Maxeon Solar Cells use?

Maxeon solar cells feature Interdigitated Back Contact (IBC) technology. This technology increases the Maxeon solar cell efficiency by relocating the frontal busbars at the back of the cells. IBC technology is up to 20% more efficient than PERC technology, yielding higher energy production, and other benefits.

Are Maxeon solar cells exclusively used in rooftop applications?

Maxeon solar cells are not exclusively used for PV rooftop applications; they are not even used exclusively to manufacture PV modules. Maxeon solar cell applications are diverse and can extend beyond imagination. Some of the most innovative applications for Maxeon solar cell technology include solar race cars, solar EVs, solar boats, and more.

Do internationally sold Maxeon solar panels use different cells than SunPower?

Maxeon solar cells are used to manufacture Maxeon and SunPower PV modules. The main proof is the similarities between the Maxeon 6 PV modules and the SunPower M Series that feature Maxeon Gen 6 solar cells. Both options feature 66 Maxeon Gen 6 solar cells and produce the same power rate, operating temperature, temperature coefficient, efficiency, and others.

Final Words

Maxeon Solar, the successor of SunPower, has patented one of the best solar cell technologies available worldwide. These cells implement IBC technology and other unique features that separate them from conventional ones, making them perfectly suited for outstanding applications and the manufacturing of PV modules sold by each company.

As a result of implementing cutting-edge technology, Maxeon solar cells are recognized as one of the leading mass-produced solar cell technologies available worldwide in the solar industry.

The best thing about Maxeon Solar is that is constantly renovating its technology. The company is already preparing to launch its Maxeon Gen 7 solar cells, featuring a lower cost, better technical specifications, and better performance in general.

At this rate, Maxeon Solar will continue leading the solar industry into a brighter future.

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