After months of lobbying, Aurora, Colorado will become the home of General Electric's proposed 400-megawatt cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar panel factory, according to Colorado Energy News and other sources.
GE announced the completed acquisition of PrimeStar Solar in April of this year, which was the original developer of the CdTe technology.
GE (NYSE: GE) claims to have achieved the (independently verified) highest recorded efficiency for cadmium telluride at almost 13 percent for a full-scale module. The firm claimed the best way to reduce solar cost was by improving efficiency, also stating that each percentage point in efficiency lowers costs by 10 percent.
Note that First Solar, the clear leader in thin-film solar, is in gigawatt-scale production at 11.7 percent efficiency with a $0.75 per-watt cost and a guidance of 2 gigawatts of production in 2011. Abound Solar, another CdTe aspirant, is working on building up capacity of 840 megawatts with help from a DOE loan guarantee.
GE said that it has closed more than 100 megawatts of orders, including 60 megawatts with NextEra, an existing GE wind customer. The firm will be building a 400-megawatt factory in the U.S. with production starting in 2013. That would make it the largest solar plant in the U.S.
GE said that when the 400-megawatt factory comes on-line in 2013, the efficiency will be above 13 percent. The efficiency level quoted is at the module level, although the existing 30-megawatt line is not the "main event," according to GE.
GE added, "We are an energy company and expect to supply full solutions," and suggested that if even 10 percent of GE's wind farms added hybrid solar, the GE factory would be sold out for six years.
GE also spoke about the timing for solar and renewable investment being right for the marketplace, positioning thin film as the cost successor to crystalline silicon. GE will invest an anticipated $600 million in solar. GE also just acquired power conversion company Converteam.
“Our plan to open a U.S. solar manufacturing facility further demonstrates our confidence in this technology and is just the first phase in a global, multi-gigawatt roadmap," GE said.
GE has more than 90,000 global employees and 2010 revenues of $38 billion. This move indicates that the big boys may be waking up to the solar growth market.