GE has announced a $600 million investment to start manufacturing solar panels in a new factory, set to be the biggest in the U.S.
General Electric says it will produce solar systems based on thin-film materials, rather than the silicon-based panels that are seen on most residential and commercial rooftops.
Instead of using silicon wafers, thin film solar panels use sheets of glass to encase very thin layers of solar material, such as cadmium telluride.
GE has said that their process creates the most efficient cadmium telluride panels so far, referencing a U.S. National Renewable Energy Lab evaluation. 12.8 percent of light was found to be converted into electricity, which is higher than previous measurements for similar systems.
Thin film solar panels are not as efficient as the more conventional solar panels, but manufacturing costs are lower, which makes them less expensive to buy. GE maintains that it is aiming to be a price leader in the sector.
Included in GE’s announcement was the news that the company has acquired PrimeStar, Inc, a thin film solar company that GE already had a minority stake in.
Projects for utilities will be GE’s main solar focus to begin with, widening to commercial and industrial clients later.
The company is planning to open the large solar manufacturing facility in 2013, which is expected to employ about 400 workers. The facility will be able to produce 400 megawatts of solar panels per year.
According to the embedded video from GE, they’ll be able to manufacture one solar every 10 seconds.
Image credit: GE