GE halts development of US’s largest planned PV manufacturing plant

Colorado General Electric PlantGeneral Electric announced that it is halting construction at its planned PV manufacturing plant in Aurora, Col. The company was building a 400 megawatt PV manufacturing plant at the site, where they would manufacture cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film photovoltaics. But falling PV module prices made the technology less economically viable. The news comes within a week of Colorado’s Abound Solar declaring that it would file for bankruptcy. 

The decision to shutter the plant for now is “based on the dynamics we see in the solar industry, with the overcapacity we’ve seen,” said GE spokesperson Lindsay Theile. “It’s the technology and cost structure, the decline in price and overcapacity in the market. Those helped us refocus and pause factory build out at this time.”

“We’re committed to building out in Colorado in Aurora and building out that facility,” Theile said. But, “We’ve put the build out on hold for at least 18 months.” 

The company was in the process of building infrastructure at facility, which is located in an existing building. The company plans to go forward with construction after the technology, based on PrimeStar Solar’s technology, reaches its second generation. At that point the technology will be 15 percent efficient or higher, according to Theile. “We want to go forward when we’re ready and can be competitive in the industry,” she said.

In the mean time the company will remain in the solar industry by building out and financing projects and through its partnership with solar thermal tower company eSolar. “In general we’re definitely continuing to move forward on our solar path,” Theile said. “The module manufacturing isn’t a apart of that. We’ve been selling solutions on the utility-scale and will continue doing that as we push forward.”

For such projects, like the Greenough River Solar Farm in Australia, which uses First Solar modules, GE can provide financing and other equipment, like inverters. However, the company can choose modules based on projects’ requirements or needs. 

GE was financing construction of the plan by itself, without relying on federal incentives, unlike startup Abound Solar which received a $400 million federal loan guarantee to build out it’s manufacturing facility planned for Indiana. However it only used $70 million of the loan guarantee.