Total's Chief Executive Officer Christophe de Margerie said SunPower "would be bankrupt" without the French oil company’s backing, according to a Bloomberg article

Total, the French oil and gas giant, owns 66 percent of America's SunPower, the leader in photovoltaic panel efficiency. But the solar efficiency crown does not guarantee a sustainable business model in today's solar industry, if Total CEO's assertion is correct. The CEO, de Margerie, said Total will “turn around” SunPower.

Total SA is Europe’s third-largest oil producer. (While we're on the topic of oil companies, note that BP Solar, the solar group within British Petroleum, just exited the solar business after decades of production, due to declining margins.)

SunPower, along with First Solar, was one of the first solar panel manufacturers to aggressively pursue utility-scale projects and to develop its own solar parks.

Having Total as a financier will potentially help SunPower circumvent the often-arduous search for money and partners on particular projects.

"SunPower is one of the few solar companies that is actually a technology play and not a commodity one," according to Shyam Mehta, GTM Research solar analyst. But that technology advantage is not enough, even in the eyes of its majority shareholder.

SunPower stock is trading at $6.55 per share, and the firm currently has a market cap of $655 million.