General Electric Co. has opted to enter into a partnership with an Arizona-based solar company instead of building a massive production plant in Colorado.
The collaboration between First Solar’s production ability coupled with General Electric’s technology is expected to improve efficiency and accelerate development.
“To lead in today’s solar industry, you must have the most competitive technology at the most competitive cost position,” said Anne McEntee, president and CEO of General Electric’s renewable energy business. “We’re excited to partner with First Solar to accelerate innovation and bring our complementary technology and R&D to market faster through its manufacturing capabilities.”
The deal, however, puts an end to General Electric’s ambitious plan to build a $300 million expansion onto a 200,000-square-foot warehouse in Aurora, Colo. — a project that was once being considered for Schenectady County. Still unclear is whether General Electric will deliver the estimated 100 new jobs for the county it pledged when it announced plans in October 2011 to site the new plant in Colorado.
At the time, a company executive indicated the “high-end management and technology” jobs would be split between the Renewable Energy headquarters in Schenectady and the Global Research Center in Niskayuna. Calls to Lindsay Theile, spokeswoman for the company Renewable Energy at General Electric, were not returned last week.
First Solar’s existing manufacturing sites will be used to further advance thin-film solar panel technology. Officials from both companies indicated the deal will allow them to achieve an increasingly competitive cost position.
In April 2011, 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 logistic 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.
New York was among 10 states in the initial running for the new facility, and was the runner-up when Colorado was awarded the deal. But then the market for solar modules tanked, prompting General Electric to forestall plans to expand the plant in July 2012.