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updated 7/19/2011 7:42:30 AM ET 2011-07-19T11:42:30

SunPower is thinking big — even more so after French oil giant Total S.A. acquired 60 percent of the solar energy firm this spring. The company followed up its recent launch of the most efficient mass-produced solar cell in the world with an announcement that it will soon start construction of the biggest solar roof in North America. SunPower has entered into a contract for a 1.1 million square-foot solar installation atop the Gloucester Marine Terminal in Gloucester, N.J. The company's primary competitors include First Solar, Suntech Power and China-based Yingli Green Energy Holding Company.

Showcasing SunPower's capabilities ...
The Gloucester Marine Terminal near the Walt Whitman Bridge on the Delaware River is owned by the Holt family. The installation will use 27,528 photovoltaic rooftop solar panels from SunPower, and will have a power generation capacity of 9 megawatts. The electricity generated — sufficient to power 1,500 homes — will account for as much as 80 percent of the power needs of the terminal, a shipping facility that boasts the largest refrigerated capacity of any terminal in the United States.

The $42 million privately funded project is already under way, and will be completed this fall.

... and boosting solar component sales
SunPower has significant expertise in manufacturing and installing residential and commercial solar systems. The company only recently began venturing into large-scale utility power projects with the acquisition of PowerLight Corporation.

This project will be another milestone for the solar industry , and will help draw more customers on the lookout for residential and commercial solar installations. The tax credits provided by the federal government, as well as the subsidies granted by various state governments across the country, will only fuel the demand for these systems in the years to come.

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