General Electric plans to select a location in about three months for a U.S. solar-panel plant that may be the country’s largest.
With the new facility, the total investment in the solar business will exceed $600 million, Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE said today in a statement. The plant will employ about 400 people and power 80,000 homes annually.
The tipping point in expansion was boosting the efficiency of cadmium telluride-based thin film panels to a record 12.8 percent, said Victor Abate, who runs solar, wind and renewable energy units at GE, the world’s biggest provider of power- generation equipment. The increase is also a key factor in bringing down costs, he said.
“Before you scale, you have to be a technology leader,” Abate said in a telephone interview. “By reaching this milestone with the most efficient technology, we believe we’re ready to scale…”
GE became the world’s second biggest maker of wind turbines within a decade of its purchase of Enron Corp.’s operations following its 2002 bankruptcy. Abate said he thinks the company can build the solar business in a similar way…
GE expects to increase the efficiency of the panels, Abate said. “We’ve moved the efficiency from where we started investing with the team at PrimeStar at about four times the rate of the industry, and we expect to continue to do that…”
Solar photovoltaic system installations will almost double to 32.6 gigawatts by 2013 from 18.6 gigawatts last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates. Manufacturing capacity worldwide has almost quadrupled since 2008 to 27.5 gigawatts, and 12 gigawatts of production will be added this year…
The decision on where to locate plant will be based on criteria including proximity to GE’s research centers, available factory space, and incentives from state and local governments. GE expects to make a decision before the end of the year, at the latest, Abate said.
I’m not surprised – and anyone who follows the scale of the industry shouldn’t be surprised either.
If Governor Bill was still in charge of New Mexico, we’d probably stand a chance at getting that factory. With our new Republican Susana running the state, we stand a better chance at manufacturing buggy whips and boot laces.