AURORA, Colo. — GE has announced plans to build a new solar panel factory in Aurora, Colo. When completed, the company said the advanced manufacturing facility will be larger than any existing solar panel factory in the country today. GE anticipates the new factory will start up 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. The company said that this location, which is in proximity to GE’s existing solar center, enables an accelerated start-up schedule with production equipment installation beginning in January 2012. At capacity, the new factory is expected to produce enough panels per year to power 80,000 homes and will be larger than 11 football fields. When complete, the new factory will represent 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.”

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.”

The solar panels produced in GE’s new Colorado factory also will be more efficient, lighter weight, and larger than conventional thin film panels, the company said. Higher efficiency is important to reduce the cost of electricity. Lighter panels facilitate easier installation. 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 said it has significantly 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.

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Publication date: 11/07/2011