GE has just announced their plans to build the largest solar panel factory in the U.S. The company will spend 600 million dollars on the new factory and their goal is to produce of 400 megawatts of thin-film solar annually, by the time they open for business in 2013. GE’s solar panels with be composed of the same thin layers of cadmium telluride currently used by their largest competitor First Solar, but for nearly less than a third of the cost.
GE has become one of the world’s primary manufacturers of wind turbines, and according to Victor Abate, Vice President of GE’s renewable energy business, the company will continue to actively invest in high-tech solar products to advance their position in the renewable energy industry.GE’s first step toward building their new factory has included the recent acquisition of PrimeStar Solar located in Arvada, Colorado.
Abate relays, “The biggest challenge for solar is the cost of energy. For every point you can move [higher] in efficiency, you reduce the cost of the system by 10%.” To counter this issue PrimeStar Solar is seen as a major asset to GE. The company has been able to produce a CdTe thin-film panel with a record-breaking efficiency of 12.8%. The cadmium telluride thin-film also proves to be cost efficient, reducing production costs from $1.20 a watt (the cost of traditional silicon solar panels) to just $.80 a watt.
GE has stated that worldwide demand for solar products is expected to grow by 75 gigawatts over the next five years. With these focused investments GE is hoping to capitalize on the growth. Thus far they already have 100 megawatts worth of orders from utility-scale solar customers in the U.S.