GE to build massive solar power plant

2011-04-07 21:06

New York - General Electric says it's going to build the largest US solar panel factory, part of a $600m bet on the future of solar power in the country.

The new plant will employ 400 people and produce enough solar panels to power 80 000 homes per year, GE said on Thursday. The company isn't saying where the plant will be located, but it does say that there are multiple locations being scouted.

GE says its thin film solar panel has been certified as the most energy efficient of its kind by the National Renewable Energy Lab in Colorado. The technology for the panel, called CdTe thin film, lends itself to low-cost, large-scale manufacturing.

GE recently acquired PrimeStar Solar Inc a maker of thin film solar panels based in Colorado.

  • Peter - 2011-04-08 06:44

    At last - some intelligence in the wilderness!

  • HighVoltage - 2011-04-08 07:59

    OK, let's see what it costs. $600m for 80,000 households= $7,500 per household. Let's assume an average households uses 600kWh per month. That implies a power consumption of 600/(24x30) = 0.83kW on average during the month, which means the capital cost per installed kW = $7,500/0.83 = $9,306. This is more than 6 times the capital cost per installed kW from nuclear!

      gbomb - 2011-04-08 09:11

      Only difference is that the 80’000 household they will be serving a year is not a once off, it is an additional 80’000 every year. So you can’t really draw the direct comparison like that. You’ll have to do this cost analysis across the lifespan of the solar power plant and compare this final output of the plant to the capital input (otherwise you will be comparing only the first year of the solar panel producing plant to the entire life span of the nuclear power plant). Assuming a 50 year life span for both plants, you are looking at the solar panel plant being able to serve 4'000'000 household in its life span, where as the nuclear power plant will always just be able to serve a fixed amount of homes during its lifespan. So using your cost analysis: 600m/4m=$150 per household, giving cost per installed kW=150/0.83=$180.7 over the lifespan of the plant. Now a nuclear power plant is 9 times the capital cost of this solar plant.

      HighVoltage - 2011-04-08 12:01

      No gbomb, you have got the cat by the tail. This solar plant can service 80,000 households for its life span, not 4 million. In power economics the capital cost is expressed in $/installed electrical kW. With a $600 million nuclear plant you can supply electricity for 500,000 households instead of 80,000 with the solar plant of the same cost. By the way I have nothing against solar, I use it myself because I am not close to an electricity grid. It works well, just very expensive.

      gbomb - 2011-04-08 12:34

      I still don't see it that way. The way I read it, is that they can supply 80'000 homes with solar panels per year. This means in the first year they will supply 80'000 homes, in the second year those 80'000 homes will still have their solar panels, and another 80'000 homes can be supplied with solar panels. This means that at the end of year 2 there will be 160'000 homes that would have been supplied with solar panels, by end year 7 this factory would have supplied 560'000 homes with solar panels. This is a plant producing solar panels, not a solar farm, they don't produce electricity, they supply a means of producing electricity. This is my understanding from the information given in the article.

      HighVoltage - 2011-04-08 12:55

      Yes, you are right, maybe the title "GE to build massive solar power plant" is misleading. I did not read the article properly, my apologies. The article refers to a solar panel factory, but nonetheless most studies show that the life cycle cost of a solar power plant is between 4 to 6 times higher than nuclear.

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