General Electric Co. (GE) plans to build its first thin-film solar factory in Colorado after months of negotiations with at least two states that wanted the $300 million plant and the 350 full-time jobs it will require.
The plant will make enough panels annually for customers to generate power for 80,000 U.S. homes, or about 400 megawatts, Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE said today in an e-mailed
GE is entering a struggling solar industry with the Bloomberg Global Leaders Solar Index of 37 manufacturers down 49 percent this year and module prices sinking in an oversupplied market. Silicon panels, which convert more sunlight to power than thin-film, will slip to $1.35 per watt this year and as low as $1.05 per watt in 2013, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Global production capacity next year will be more than double the demand for panels of about 20,000 megawatts, said Paul Leming, an analyst at Ticonderoga Securities in New York.
GE will need to improve efficiency to lower costs for developers and compete with China, which produces more than half the world’s solar panels. GE decided to expand manufacturing after reaching a 12.8 percent conversion rate, a record for their technology.
The factory will be located in an existing building in Aurora, Colorado, east of Denver, and is part of a $600 million investment in GE’s solar business, the company said. About half of that is for the new plant, Sean Gannon, a GE spokesman, said today in an e-mail. Panel production will begin in 2012, and initial shipments to customers will take place in 2013.