GE has decided to instigate its Chinese counterparts and market leader First Solar by announcing its intentions to build the largest solar PV, 400MW capacity manufacturing plant in Aurora, Colorado, just east of Denver. Until now, the market graph was dominated by First Solar who produces thin film solar panels with an efficiency rate of 11.7 percent. Although, the company plans to increase the efficiency to 13.5 – 14.5 percent by 2014, GE thin film panels efficiency rate would already be 14 percent when its first batch rolls out in 2013.
Victor Abate, the vice president of renewable energy at GE said its decision to enter the thin-film solar panels market was not instantaneous but involved a decade-long study of the US solar market and tracking of every technology option. GE needs to bring out a better and technologically advanced product in a market that is so fiercely competitive.
The plant which highlights GE’s $600 million investment will be able to produce panels enough to power 80,000 homes at full capacity. Once the panels become a little cheaper, households will spontaneously shift from regular grid energy to solar power. Mark Little, the global research director for GE feels that once panel prices drop than retail prices within three to five years, people will be attracted towards solar options more than before.
GE’s decision comes at a time when solar panel prices are declining resulting in high-profile companies hitting the dust. Though the period of investment is critical, GE feels that the best technology and low-cost prices will help them beat their competitors at their own game. The company’s larger and lighter panel will able them to lower the costs.
GE has previously played the same game in the wind energy department when it invested $200 million a decade ago to make it a $6 billion a year business acquiring with a 10 percent market share. The company plans to tread the same path when dealing with its solar business.