Thursday, April 7, 2011

Why GE Jumps Into Solar Market Pegged to Reach 75,000 Megawatts and Its Significance

GE is a solar bull and that means a lot. The solar skeptics may want to stop snickering and start rethinking but probably will not.

Long in the business of nuclear power and gas turbines, and making wind turbines since 2002, GE moved today aggressively into solar, announcing it will build America's biggest solar manufacturing plant and has the highest efficiency thin film product.  GE also expects to reduce by another 50% in several years thin film solar factory gate costs that are already below $1 per watt.

GE estimates that the global solar market will be 75,000 megawatts over the next 5 years or enough generation to supply the annual needs of about 12 million American homes.  GE's 75,000 megawatt projection, large though it is, remains quite conservative. 

I would bet it will be more than 100,000 megawatts or a $300-$400 billion market.  GE is no fool and realizes that, if it can make money in a 75,000 megawatt market and that scenario is the worst case over the next 5 years, it is positioned to make higher profits in a market that will probably be even bigger.

GE's solar business follows its wind footsteps that began in 2002 when GE purchased the defunct Enron wind turbines and manufacturing facility in California, the most valuable piece of the Enron carcas.  GE grew its wind business from $200 million to $6 billion in less than a decade.  It clearly expects to do even better with solar.

GE has yet to announce where in the United States it will locate its manufacturing.  Hopefully Pennsylvania is in the hunt, but worryingly clean energy companies are wondering whether they are welcome in the Commonwealth.  The future of solar is now, is enormous, and is made brighter by plunging costs.

Plunging costs and rising efficiency means solar with gas are going to dominate power production over the next 20 years.

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