GE Jumps Into Solar Sales $GE

As GE prepares to open its new solar thin-film manufacturing facility in Denver, the company is marketing its product to the most likely of buyers—its wind customers.

Invenergy announced plans last week to install 23 megawatts of GE’s new thin-film solar panels at a 210-megawatt wind farm it operates in Illinois.

Wind and solar are actually quite complementary,” said Matt Guyette, strategy and marketing leader for GE’s renewable business. “The wind isn’t always blowing, and the sun only shines during the day.”

In fact, the wind tends to be strongest at night, which makes solar generation an ideal balance to wind generation, Guyette said. Together the two can make up for some of each other’s inconsistencies, eliminating one of the greatest fears most utility companies face when considering renewable energy generation.

“Both go into regions where the market wants renewables,” Guyette said. “That makes them attractive in the same places.”

GE supplies more than a quarter of the world’s power generation equipment, and Guyette said the company has added solar simply because it wants to continue supplying what its customers need and are looking to add.

“We try to serve our customers the technology they want and what is going to work for them,” he said.

Right now, that means GE expects a growing solar business.

“We’ve been looking at solar for many, many years,” he said. “In 2007 we saw significant growth in the solar market.”

That’s when GE set out to development its own solar manufacturing and sales arm. Its new thin-film manufacturing plant will open in Denver later this year and is expected to hit full capacity—producing more than 400 megawatts a year—by 2013, Guyette said.

Right now, the company is lining up buyers for that product.

Solar is expected to take up a growing market segment just as wind begins to fall off. Many renewable energy developers are bracing for wind subsidies to fall off in 2013.

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