GE chooses Colorado over New York for solar plant

Schenectady County won't get the nation's largest thin-film solar panel plant, but will gain 100 new

Schenectady County won’t get the nation’s largest thin-film solar panel plant, but will gain 100 new jobs associated with General Electric’s growth in the renewable energy division over the next three to five years.

The company will invest $300 million to retrofit and expand a 200,000-square-foot warehouse in Aurora, Col. Victor Abate, vice president of GE Renewable Energy, said the company tried to find a spot suitable in the Capital Region or elsewhere in New York, but couldn’t find anything they could get operational by next year.

But Abate assured GE is still deeply invested in expanding in New York, as evidenced by the anticipated growth of high-end jobs in the state. He said the 100 additional jobs will be split between the Renewable Energy headquarters in Schenectady and its Global Research Center in Niskayuna.

In April, GE announced it would invest $600 million into its solar energy division to build a facility capable of producing enough panels per year to power 80,000 homes. Criteria for the new plant included locating it near a major power source, being close to a logistical network linking the plant’s supply chain with transportation and being in an area large enough to accommodate roughly 1 million square feet of production space.

Part of the investment included the purchase of PrimeStar Solar Inc., a Colorado-based company producing a record-setting thin-film solar panel. The company is also vested in further research and commercialization of the product, which is expected be marketed to power companies and other major electricity users.

New York was among 10 states in the initial running for the new facility. And the state was a runner-up to Colorado when the final decision was announced Thursday.

GE’s proposed plant in Aurora is located less than 20 miles from PrimeStar Solar. Abate said finding a plant that fits GE’s needs in close proximity to its existing panel production plant will allow the company to meet its aggressive timetable to start production.

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