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GE to Build Colorado Solar Plant, Add Jobs in NY

Photonics.com
Oct 2011
AURORA, Colo., Oct. 19, 2011 — General Electric Co. is expanding its thin-film solar panel manufacturing business in a big way, making it clear that the company sees renewable energy and clean technology as prime business opportunities.

GE announced it will build a new solar panel factory in Aurora, which beat out New York state in a hotly contested bidding war. The new factory will start up earlier than expected, with the first panels coming off the line in 2012 and commercial availability in 2013.

GE anticipates investing as much as $600 million in building the plant, which is expected to create 355 jobs involved in manufacturing as much as 400 MW of thin-film solar panels — enough to power 80,000 homes a year. In support of its expected growth in solar business, GE also announced plans to create 100 new positions in New York.


A solar array. (Images: GE)

Colorado is home to PrimeStar Solar, which GE acquired earlier this year — leading to speculations that its proximity sealed the deal. GE acquired PrimeStar Solar prior to announcing its plans to build a thin-film solar PV panel plant (See: GE to Build US Plant as Part of $600M Solar Investment). Based in Arvada, another Denver suburb, PrimeStar Solar manufactures thin-film cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar PV cells and panels.

In April, the US Department of Energy’s Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) certified that a PrimeStar CdTe thin-film solar panel manufactured at PrimeStar’s 30-MW manufacturing facility in Arvada reached a record-setting 12.8 percent aperture efficiency. According to GE, a 1 percent increase in efficiency translates into an ~10 percent reduction in system cost.

“After having completed an exhaustive survey of the PV landscape, we determined that thin films were the optimum path for GE,” said GE solar R&D executive Danielle Merfeld in a March 2010 press release. “Specifically, the CdTe technology from PrimeStar has great potential. Bringing together world-class materials expertise, unique materials and systems modeling and design capabilities and state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor solar testing facilities, GE researchers are innovating across our four global research centers — literally around the clock — to deliver a breakthrough product to market.”


Artist’s rendering of the new factory.

“Working with our Colorado-based solar team, we were able to achieve record efficiencies in our solar panels in record time,” said Victor Abate, vice president of GE’s Renewable Energy business. “The Colorado location will allow us to deliver our technology road map faster and commercialize industry-leading panel efficiencies sooner. We also look forward to continuing to build our relationships with Colorado’s local, state and federal officials, who have been extremely helpful as we moved through the site selection process.

“We plan to add 100 high-tech jobs between our Renewable Energy Global Headquarters in Schenectady [N.Y.] and GE’s Global Research Center in Niskayuna [N.Y.],” he said. “The Cuomo administration has demonstrated a change in business culture in New York state. New York is well positioned to continue to be part of GE’s solar business growth.”

Solar panels produced in the new Colorado factory will be more efficient, lighter in weight and larger than conventional thin-film panels, the company said. Lighter panels will facilitate easier installation and enable important applications, including commercial rooftops. Larger-size panels help to lower total system cost by reducing the amount of racking and electrical components required.

For more information, visit: www.ge.com


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