U.S.’s Largest Solar Factory Halted in Face of Dropping Prices

General Electric has halted construction of what would have been the largest solar factory in the U.S. due to the falling price of photovoltaic modules globally and says it will focus instead on developing the next generation of cadmium-telluride thin-film technologies for the developers of solar plants.

Construction of the 400-megawatt factory in Aurora, Colo, which had been announced after GE purchased Primestar Solar in April 2011, will be put on hold for at least 18 months, company officials say.

While the thin-film panels are less efficient than conventional silicon panels, they had emerged as a popular option for large utilities since they can be built at a cheaper cost — particularly when silicon prices are high.

But with a steep drop in silicon prices and increased production by Chinese solar companies, the price of conventional solar modules has dropped roughly 50 percent in recent months.

“Given those dynamics… we’re focusing our efforts on developing the next generation of [cadmium-telluride] module technology so we can reach higher efficiency levels and a more competitive cost position,” Danielle Merfield, GE’s general manager for solar technologies, told Forbes.

The Colorado-based startup Abound Solar, which had received a $400 million federal loan to build cadmium-telluride panel factories, filed for bankruptcy last week.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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