AURORA, CO -- GE announced plans to build its new solar panel factory in Aurora, Colorado. When completed, the advanced manufacturing facility will create 355 jobs in Colorado and will be larger than any existing solar panel factory in the country today. GE anticipates the new factory will first start up earlier than expected with the first panels coming off the line in 2012 with commercial availability in 2013.
GE will locate the factory in an existing building in Aurora, just east of Denver. This location, which also is in proximity to GE’s existing solar center of excellence, enables an accelerated start-up schedule with production equipment installation beginning in January 2012. At capacity, the new factory will produce enough panels per year to power 80,000 homes and will be larger than 11 football fields. When complete, the new solar factory will highlight a $600 million investment in GE’s solar business.
Colorado already is home to GE Energy’s thin film solar pilot line, where joint technology advancements from GE’s Global Research Center and PrimeStar Solar have been validated and tested. GE completed the acquisition of PrimeStar earlier this year.
“Working with our Colorado-based solar team, we were able to achieve record efficiencies in our solar panels in record time,” said Victor Abate, vice president of GE’s Renewable Energy business. “The Colorado location will allow us to deliver our technology roadmap faster and commercialize industry-leading panel efficiencies sooner. We also look forward to continuing to build our relationships with Colorado’s local, state and federal officials who have been extremely helpful as we moved through the site selection process.”
“This is great news for Colorado and further proof that our state is emerging as a center of innovation. GE’s move to Aurora takes advantage of Colorado’s clean energy resources and a collaborative business environment that is committed to helping the company succeed,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. “We look forward to supporting GE as it fosters its technical innovation and research capabilities in Colorado.”
“This is terrific news for Aurora, for Colorado and for solar, and it shows the tremendous potential renewable energy holds to create jobs and power our economy,” said U.S. Sen. Mark Udall. “I’m confident that this is only the beginning—I look forward to working with GE and its partners to build its presence and create more good-paying jobs in our state. They’ve recognized what I’ve said for years: Colorado can lead the world in creating clean energy jobs and putting people to work. These innovative new jobs will allow us to build the products of the future while using Colorado’s natural resources and talented workers. With the sun in the San Luis Valley, the wind on the Eastern Plains and the brain power at our top-notch colleges and universities, Colorado is positioned to lead the world in the global economic race.”
In support of its expected growth in the solar space, GE also announced plans to create 100 new positions in New York. “We plan to add 100 high-tech jobs between our Renewable Energy Global Headquarters in Schenectady and GE’s Global Research Center in Niskayuna,” Abate said. “The Cuomo administration has demonstrated a change in business culture in New York state. New York is well positioned to continue to be part of GE’s solar business growth.”
“Bringing 100 new high-tech jobs to the Capital Region without any taxpayer subsidy is a real victory for our upstate economy,” said New York Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy. “With this announcement, we are once again proving that New York state is open for business and well positioned to create new economic opportunities across our state. We look forward to continuing to work with GE and support the growth of their solar business here in New York.”
Solar panels produced in GE’s new Colorado factory also will be more efficient, lighter weight and larger than conventional thin film panels. Higher efficiency is a key component of GE’s commitment to offer advanced solar products while reducing the total cost of electricity for utilities and consumers. Lighter panels will facilitate easier installation and enable important applications including commercial rooftop. Larger-sized panels help to lower total system cost by reducing the amount of racking and electrical components required.
Abate added, “We are building out our global solar business now because of our technology innovation and economics. We remain on track to deliver the most affordable solutions for our customers as we continuously improve this technology.”
GE has dramatically grown its wind business through technology and scale since entering the space in 2002 and anticipates a similar trajectory for solar given recent technology breakthroughs. GE has more than 27 gigawatts of wind and solar resources installed around the world.
In addition to thin film solar panels, GE offers power electronics and pre-designed utility-scale solar power plants for use in multi-megawatt applications. Power electronics are critical to bringing renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, into the mainstream, delivering economies of scale and providing stable connection to the grid. The recent acquisition of Converteam will add the company’s energy conversion technologies to GE’s solar offerings, further broadening GE’s portfolio.