On Friday, General Electric announced plans to build a $300 million solar panel plant in Colorado. The factory, near Denver, will be the largest in the U.S. The announcement is a strong show of confidence for the solar industry, which has been rocked by a string of bankruptcies and falling prices.
GE, a global leader in wind turbine manufacturing, is entering the solar panel business at a difficult time. While solar installations are growing fast, solar panel prices have fallen drastically in the past year, due in part to a saturated market. The falling prices have led to a number of solar panel maker bankruptcies, including that of Solyndra, which collapsed in spite of the $535 million loan guarantee from the federal government.
"What it boils down to is technology . . . and at the end of the day the way we measure costs," said Victor Abate, who heads GE's renewable-energy business.
The companies that have failed had "the wrong technology and the wrong cost structure," Abate said.
The Colorado factory will have annual capacity of 400 megawatts -- enough to supply electricity to 80,000 homes -- and will initially employ about 355 people.
All in all, good news for renewable power advocates in the U.S.