Solar Power Business Heats Up: Enter GE

GE solar panels

Watch out, solar manufacturers: GE may be about to take over your turf. The corporate giant, which has already carved out a spot as one of the world's leading wind turbine suppliers, announced this week that it is moving into the thin film solar business.

CNet reports that GE-branded thin film panels will be on the market next year as part of a partnership with PrimeStar Solar. The latter company will manufacture the panels at its 30-megawatt manufacturing line in Colorado.

GE is manufacturing cadmium telluride thin film panels, which puts it in direct competition with First Solar, the only other major company to focus on the material. It will be a fierce battle. First Solar is the world's largest thin-film solar manufacturer, and one of the biggest solar manufacturers overall. But GE has its reasons for banking on cadmium telluride, according to MIT Technology Review:

Compared to silicon, there's still a lot to learn about the physics of cadmium telluride, which suggests it could be made more efficient, which in turn can lower the cost per watt of solar power. It's also potentially cheaper to make cadmium-telluride solar panels than it is to make silicon solar cells, making it easier to compete with established solar-panel makers.

A race for the cheapest, most efficient panels can only mean good things for solar power consumers. We'll be keeping a close eye, then, on the rivalry between GE and First Solar.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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