GE announced the location of its first thin-film plant in October 2011 which would have a nameplate capacity of 400MW and start commercial shipments in 2013. The facility was at the core of a US$600 million investment in entering the solar industry.
GE has decided to cancel plans to ramp its own cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film operations in Aurora, Colorado, instead selling the intellectual property portfolio to CdTe leader, First Solar.
First Solar has issued 1.75 million shares of common stock as part of the transaction, while GE will retain the shares for at least three years.
As part of the deal, GE Global Research will collaborate on future CdTe solar technology development with First Solar as well as team on commercial levels that include purchasing and branding First Solar’s modules for future global GE PV power plants.
Collaboration will also include power plant equipment, such as PV central inverters, controls, balance of plant and ownership of utility-scale systems.
“We are creating an exciting synergy with this deal,” said Jim Hughes, First Solar’s chief executive. “The addition of GE’s PV thin film technology and R&D resources will advance our technology roadmap, while realising cost reduction in our manufacturing process.”
“To lead in today’s solar industry, you must have the most competitive technology at the most competitive cost position,” said Anne McEntee, president and CEO of GE’s renewable energy business. “We’re excited to partner with First Solar to accelerate innovation and bring our complementary technology and R&D to market faster through its manufacturing capabilities.”
GE went back to basics a year ago by temporarily halting the roll out of module production and refocus on R&D to boost module efficiencies and lower production costs to better compete with the likes of First Solar and number of CIGS start-ups.
Jim Hughes, CEO of First Solar said in his opening remarks to discuss second quarter financial results, that the share issue to GE resulted in the company becoming one of its top 10 shareholders.
Hughes also acknowledged that GE has achieved a higher record R&D based CdTe solar cell than First Solar’s recent 18.7% conversion efficiency at 19.6%.
During the Q&A session of the conference call, First Solar management noted that GE had committed to specific module quantity purchases from the company and had agreed module prices over an “extended” number of years.
However, First Solar would be increasing its R&D expenditure by US$75 million to accommodate the R&D collaboration with GE, yet noted that it was unlikely to update its technology and production cost roadmap until next year, probably at its annual analyst day event.
Management also acknowledged that GE’s CdTe technology and processes were more costly than its own but the aim is to have higher efficiencies than previously expected and therefore lower costs per watt. The company also noted that certain GE-developed technology was expected to be incorporated into its own commercial products within the next two years.
Source: PV Tech