GE announced on April 7 that it will manufacture its record-setting solar panels at a new U.S. factory that will be larger than any existing solar panel factory in the country today. The factory will highlight an $600 million investment made by GE in solar technology and commercialization and will be complemented by the recently announced acquisition of power conversion company Converteam, the company said.
GE plans to build an advanced technology thin film solar panel factory in the United States that, at capacity, will produce enough panels per year to power 80,000 homes annually. The 400-megawatt facility will be larger than any U.S. solar panel manufacturing plant in operation and will employ 400 people. Multiple locations are being considered for the new facility, with the final location to be announced shortly.
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% 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 GEs goal to offer advanced solar products while reducing the total cost of electricity for utilities and consumers. In fact, a 1% increase in efficiency is equal to an approximate 10% decrease in system cost, GE said.
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.
GE also announced more than 100 megawatts of new commercial agreements for solar thin film products, including panels, inverters and total solar power plants. GEs largest solar agreement to date is with NextEra Energy for 60 megawatts of thin film solar panels. Once deployed, the panels will help grow NextEras solar power portfolio, solidifying the companys position as the largest generator of solar energy in the country today. NextEra also currently produces 4.5 gigawatts of renewable energy with GE's wind turbines.
Additionaly GE has completed the acquisition of PrimeStar Solar, Inc., a thin film solar technology company in which GE has held a majority equity stake since 2008.
GE also has signed a 20-megawatt solar agreement with Invenergy for the supply of thin film solar panels and GE Brilliance inverters. Invenergy, a Chicago-based clean energy generation company, will install the solar products at a project site in Illinois. Invenergy recently executed a power purchase agreement for the project, which upon completion will be one of the largest solar installations in the state.