GE Sees Solar-Panel Efficiency Topping 12.8% Record in 2013
General Electric Co. (GE), the largest supplier of wind turbines in the U.S., expects to exceed the 12.8 percent solar-efficiency record for thin-film modules when its first commercial-scale panel factory opens in 2013.
Improving solar-panel efficiency, or the amount of sunlight converted to electricity, would help reduce costs to about 10 cents to 15 cents a kilowatt-hour without subsidies, making it more competitive with fossil fuels, according to Victor Abate, who oversees solar, wind and renewable energy at Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE.
“Speed is the key here,” Abate said today at a conference in New York. The 12.8 percent efficiency that GE reached for its cadmium telluride panels last year is an industry record for thin-film technology, and “we’ll be higher than that” when the factory opens. “Fourteen percent to 15 percent is in the cards.”
GE plans to select a site for the factory in the second quarter and to announce the location in the third quarter, he said. It is considering Colorado and New York, where the company already employs hundreds of engineers.
First Solar Inc. (FSLR), the world’s biggest supplier of thin-film modules, also uses cadmium telluride and increased its efficiency to 11.7 percent in the first quarter from 11.1 percent a year earlier. The most common solar panels, mostly made in China, use a thicker layer of silicon and have efficiency ratings in the high teens.
GE slipped 20 cents to $20.10 at 12:26 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. First Solar, based in Tempe, Arizona, fell $1.61, or 2.1 percent, to $126.44 a share.
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