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Oct 142011

From Green Right Now Reports

GE has released new details of the solar factory it’s opening in Colorado, which is projected to employ 355 people on site with an additional 100 high-tech workers in affiliated positions in upstate New York.

The factory in Aurora, a Denver suburb, will be set up in an existing building capable of producing enough thin-film PV panels annually to power 80,000 homes. It will begin production in 2012, quicker than announced earlier, with the first panels coming off the production line within the year. Employment is targeted to reach capacity over five years.

Larger than 11 football fields, the factory will be the biggest solar production facility in the US and a centerpiece of GE’s $600 million solar business.

GE has already become a key player in the wind industry, and the opening of the Colorado plant, along its new support jobs at the Renewable Energy Global Headquarters in Schenectady, NY, and GE’s Global Research Center in Niskayuna, NY, marks a significant push by the US-based multinational into solar.

The panels produced in Colorado will be made using Cadmium-Telluride technology, producing a type of PV panel that’s not as efficient at collecting sunlight as photo-voltaics that use silicon, but will achieve other efficiencies, being lighter weight and larger than conventional thin film panels.

Cadmium-Telluride panels represent only about 10 percent of PVs in production and critics have raised questions about their use of toxic cadmium, which is difficult to dispose of and of tellurium, a rare element. Federal researchers are exploring compounds that could replace these elements to avoid a future roadblock to production.

National Renewal Energy Laboratory research has confirms that Cadmium-Telluride panels present cost efficiencies over silicon panels, but notes that their production and use will have to be coordinated with programs for safe disposal and recycling.

GE anticipates that its panels produced in Aurora will be easier to install on rooftops because of their lighter weight and also reduce costs by lower the amount of racking and electrical components required.

“This is terrific news for Aurora, for Colorado and for solar, and it shows the tremendous potential renewable energy holds to create jobs and power our economy,” said U.S. Sen. Mark Udall. “I’m confident that this is only the beginning—I look forward to working with GE and its partners to build its presence and create more good-paying jobs in our state.”