GE just made a number of big solar power announcements. In nice, clean bullet form:
- it and PrimeStar Solar (which it announced it has now fully acquired) have apparently developed the most efficient cadmium-telluride thin film solar cell on the market;
- it’s investing $600 million into growing its solar energy presence by manufacturing this solar cell (something that, as you know, doesn’t end up happening with a lot of “breakthrough” technologies);
- it’s going to be setting up its manufacturing base in the U.S., the biggest facility of its type in the U.S.;
- it has secured 100 MW of commercial deals for solar thin-film products already.
The manufacturing base (location yet to be announced) is expected to employ 400 workers, create 600 jobs, and manufacture 400-MW worth of solar panels each year.
NextEra Energy has ordered 60 MW of thin film solar panels so far and Invenergy has ordered 20MW of panels and new GE Brilliance inverters (another technology just launched by GE).
National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) verified the record-breaking efficiency of GE’s new technology. It found a 12.8% aperture area efficiency. This technology actually started out at NREL before its research and development were passed on to PrimeStar in 2007.
“This panel surpasses all previously published records for CdTe thin film, which is the most affordable solar technology in the industry,” said GE in a statement.
GE has put a lot into wind energy (has a $6-billion wind energy business) and now, as another key part of its renewable energy strategy, it is looking to focus a lot more on solar. It’s specific focus: make solar cheaper.
“Our wind business was just a couple of hundred million dollars in 2002. Now it’s a $6 billion platform. GE knows how to scale,” Victor Abate, vice president of GE’s renewable energy business, said. “We are addressing the biggest barrier for the mainstream adoption of solar technology – cost – and the NREL certification proves that we are on track to deliver the most affordable solutions for our customers.”
“Our plan to open a US solar manufacturing facility further demonstrates our confidence in this technology and is just the first phase in a global, multi-gigawatt roadmap. We’re not only excited by the efficiency milestone, but by the speed at which our team was able to achieve it and the innovation runway for future improvements in this technology.”
Looks like GE is moving fast on solar. Of course, it’s got a lot of competition in this field, from First Solar in the U.S. to a number of Chinese solar companies that benefit from cheap labor and much stronger government support for cleantech.
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