Photo: theregeneration, Flickr, CC
A $600 Million Investing - Solar Power is BoomingGE, a massive US-based conglomerate, has had a lot of success with its wind turbine division. It now looks like they want to reproduce that favorable outcome with their nascent solar power division, and the main element in their strategy to get there is a new thin-film solar panel plant that is being announced today. The location of the factory will be picked within three months, but we know that it will employ 400 people when it opens in 2013 and produce high-efficiency thin-film panels sufficient to generate 400 megawatts of electricity annually, or enough to power 80,000 homes a year.
Photo: theregeneration, Flickr, CCThe plant would have almost 15% more capacity (measured by the panel's megawatt capacity) than the current biggest plant in the U.S., which is operated by SolarWorld AG, a German company.
Global demand for photovoltaics is expected to grow by 75 gigawatts over the next five years, with utility-scale solar power plants making up a significant part of that growth. With the technology and manufacturing investments recently announced, GE is well positioned to capitalize on this trend.
The record-setting panel was produced on the PrimeStar 30-megawatt manufacturing line in Arvada, Colo. It was measured by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) at a 12.8 percent aperture area efficiency. This panel surpasses all previously published records for CdTe thin film, which is the most affordable solar technology in the industry. Continually increasing solar panel efficiency is a key component of GE's goal to offer advanced solar products while reducing the total cost of electricity for utilities and consumers. In fact, a 1 percent increase in efficiency is equal to an approximate 10 percent decrease in system cost. (source)
Other big thin-film solar players like First Solar and Nanosolar will now have more competition... This should help further drive down prices and make utility-scale solar easier to build (if you order large quantities of panels, sometimes you end up on a waiting list for months or years...).
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