General Electric announced recently that a thin film solar panel developed by the company has been certified by an independent entity as the most efficient in this technology so far. GE plans to manufacture these high performance solar panels in a new plant in U.S. to be the largest of its kind in the country today. When construction is complete, the plant will be the climax of the new investment of $600 million announced by GE in technology and marketing of solar energy and will be complemented by the recently announced acquisition of Converteam, the company specialized in power conversion.
“Invenergy is the largest independent wind power generation U.S. and we are delighted to work with GE on this solar project in our commitment to expand our energy portfolio.”
In addition, GE has acquired PrimeStar Solar, a company specializing in thin-film solar technology in which GE held a controlling interest since 2008. Photovoltaic solar energy is GE’s next step in its plans to develop its renewable energy portfolio and is part of the company’s ecomagination commitment, which GE boosts clean energy technology by investing in R + D + i.
“During the last decade, thanks to investments in technology, GE has become one of the largest manufacturers of wind turbines in the world and investments in high-tech solar products help GE to strengthen its position in the market renewable energy,” said Victor Abate, vice president of renewable energy business of GE. “GE is tackling the biggest obstacle to widespread adoption of solar technology, cost, and NREL certification demonstrates that GE is on track to offer its customers the most economical solutions,” he added.
It is expected that the global PV demand grows by 75 gigawatts over the next five years, and an important part of this growth will come from solar plants adapted to the needs of utilities. Thanks to investment in manufacturing facilities and technology and recently announced, GE is uniquely placed to exploit this trend.
The record performance solar panel was manufactured in the facilities of 30 MW of PrimeStar in Arvada (Colorado, USA). The entity National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) found an open area efficiency of 12.8%. This panel exceeds all published figures for thin-film equipment cadmium telluride, which is the most affordable solar technology sector today. The steady increase in the efficiency of solar panels is a key factor in his bid for GE to provide advanced solar products while reducing total cost of electricity for utilities and consumers. In fact, a 1% increase in efficiency equates to a decrease of approximately 10% of the costs of the systems.
Milestones like these are crucial for the U.S., which seeks to promote the widespread adoption of solar technologies, “says Ryne Raffaelle, director of the National Photovoltaic NREL. “It’s great to see a technology that was born at NREL and is ready to make its entry into the market.” NREL PrimeStar transferred the technology through an agreement of cooperation in R & D signed in 2007.
GE will build a factory for thin-film solar panels with advanced technologies in the U.S. that, by capacity, will produce enough panels each year to meet the annual electricity consumption of 80,000 homes. These installations of 400 MW will be larger than any other plant for manufacturing solar panels U.S. and will employ 400 people. Different locations are being considered for the new factory, whose final location will be announced shortly.
Abate added: “Our plans to build a solar panel factory is another sign of our confidence in this technology and is the first phase of an ambitious international agenda. Not only are we excited the record of efficiency we have achieved, also the speed with which our team was able to achieve and the path of innovation that we have opened to improve this technology in the future. ”
GE also announced commercial agreements totaling over 100 MW for the manufacture of thin film solar products, including panels, inverters and solar power solutions. The largest solar technology agreement signed by GE so far is with NextEra Energy and is 60 MW in thin-film solar panels. Once installed, solar panels will extend the solar energy portfolio NextEra and strengthen the company’s position as the largest solar energy generator in the country today. NextEra also currently produces 4.5 GW of renewable energy with wind turbines from GE.
Jim Robo, NextEra operations director, said: “NextEra is the largest renewable energy producer in the U.S., and we believe that the solar industry in North America offers attractive growth opportunities in the coming years. The GE advanced solar technology is a natural choice for us at a time when we are working to develop our portfolio of wind turbines and solar panels to meet the needs of our customers who demand more affordable and cleaner energy.”
GE has also signed a contract with Invenergy to provide 20 MW of thin-film solar panels and GE Brilliance inverters. Invenergy, a Chicago-based company specializing in clean energy generation, solar products installed on a project in Illinois. Invenergy recently signed a power purchase contract for the project, once completed will be one of the largest solar installations in this state.
“Invenergy is the independent firm of wind power’s biggest country and we are very pleased to be working with GE on this project site now that we are expanding our portfolio of clean energy,” said Michael Polsky, president and CEO of Invenergy. “We are eager to start using advanced technologies for GE’s solar modules.”
In addition to thin film solar panels, GE offers power electronics and solar power art to measure the utilities for different applications. The tender offer of 3,200 million dollars by Converteam incorporate the range of energy conversion technologies of this company to supply solar GE, expanding its portfolio.
Power electronics is essential to widespread use of renewable energy sources like wind and solar, and getting allow economies of scale and stable connections to the network. With the integration of technology Converteam, GE is in a strong position to offer a wide range of generators, converters and inverters integrated sectors of wind turbines and solar power.