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Why Media Exaggeration (NY Times) making a Big Deal about General Electric’s 400 MW Solar Factory is Nonsensical

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It is surprising to see the US Media jumping about saying the General Electric will build the biggest solar factory in the US when it is completely factually wrong.There are other companies that add 400 MW in a single quarter these days (eg.LDK). By the time GE builds its 400 MW Cadmium Tellurium Solar Panel facility,there will be around 20 players in the world with more than 1000 MW capacity.GE has been claiming high efficiencies for its Thin Film Solar Panels but the claims that it will be able to dethrone First Solar as the Leader seems far fetched currently.Note First Solar will have almost 7 times more capacity worldwide by the time GE builds its first solar panel facility.GE has been long been developing the Cadmium Tellurium Technology buying up Prime Solar.

Green Jobs Claim also Exaggerated

Note the 400-600 Jobs that would be created is a pittance to the thousands of jobs being create in China by the Big Solar Panel Producers like Trina,LDK,Suntech and others.For example LDK is employing more than 2000 thousand workers in a new 570 MW Solar Cell Plant in Hefei which was built in 4 months.For a long time US Green Jobs in Solar Energy are being outsourced to countries like Mexico,China and other places as Solar Companies like Evergreen,Energy Conversion Devices face mounting cost pressure.

Conglomerates with Bigger Solar Energy Plans than GE

However it will have an impossible time replicating its success in the Wind Energy field despite its massive size and reach.For one other global conglomerates are getting into Solar Energy in a big way.AUO has already planned 2 Gigawatts of Solar Panel capacity.TSMC,Samsung,LG,Hyundai and many other have similar gigawatt plans.GE’s 100 MW of orders does not even form 1% of the global 2010 demand.However the US Media (NY Times,Reuters etc) has harped on GE plans as it would become the Solar Leader.

Here is a list of the Plans of the other big Global Transnationals getting into the Solar Energy Industyr

  • Samsung –  Semiconductor and Electronics Giant Samsung is entering into production of polysilicon setting up a 10,000 ton plant in an equal JV with US Poly Producer MEMC.The plant will be set up in South Korea and will go onstream by 2013.Samsung had recently started production solar crystalline silicon solar panels which uses polysilicon as raw material.Samsung has made major plans to enter the Green Industry in a big way.It has signed a multi billion investment contract to build a huge offshore wind farm off Ontario and also plans to build solar plants.
  • LG – LG, the other big Korean Electronics Giant has also firmed up its plan in the Solar Energy Space.It is already selling solar modules in the South Korean and European markets and plans to have a 240 MW capacity by 2010 end .This will be rapidly expanded to a Gigawatt capacity by 2012.
  • Hanwha – South Korean Conglomerate Hanwha subsidiary Hanwha Chemicals took a controlling 49.99% stake inSolarfun .Solarfun is the 4th largest Chinese company which has been executing well on a vertical integration strategy.The company has 900 MW of module capacity with ~400-500 MW of wafer and cell capacity.Hanwha is also expanding into the polysilicon and system integration business.
  • Hyundai Heavy Industries – South Korea’s Hyundai Industries which is known more for its cars,is also making a big push into the Green Energy Space.Like its South Korean peers,Hyundai is also preferring to enter this space through Solar Energy.Hyundai has already established a 320 MW cell capacity which it plans to double to 600 MW by early 2011 which would make it the largest South Korean manufacturer.Hyundai had earlier bought solar cell equipment from Germany’s  Centrotherm as far back as 2008 and had entered a  long term contract with LDK Solar for buying solar wafers as raw material  for its cell lines.Its sister company KCC has started a 6000 ton polysilicon plant in South Korea.It is in negotiations with the Hungarian government to set up a manufacturing base in that country to serve the European markets.It is also targeting the US market with partnerships with companies like Raser Technology and Matinee Energy.It is also planning to set up a 240 MW solar power plant in partnership with Matinee Energy and LG.
  • TSMC – TSMC has been a late entrant into the solar energy market but is making much smarter moves than its Taiwanese peers.It bought a 20% stake in Motech (Taiwan’s oldest and largest solar cell company) for $192 million.It bought this stake at an opportune time when the stock prices of solar companies are trading at trough valuations.Its $50 million stake buy in Khosla backed unlisted CIGS startup Stion is another smart investment.Stion is looking  to partner with major semi companies for manufacturing and TSMC which is the world’s largest foundry is an ideal partner.
  • AUO – AUO is one of the world’s leading LCD panel manufacturers with most of its manufacturing facilities located in Taiwan.AUO has a  JV with SunPower’s to build 1.4 gigawatt third solar cell fabrication facility  in Malaysia. SunPower and AUO will equally own the JV and contribute equal capital funding.AUO is also building cell and module plants in Taiwan as well.It recently claimed the world’s most efficient solar panel with 19.5% efficiency.AUO has also bought M.Setek a large producer of polysilicon and wafer making it a vertically integrated player in a short time.
  • Siemens – The world’s largest green company is quite weak in the Solar Energy area.Like other conglomerates and competitor Areva,it acquired Israeli CSP company Solel Energy to make its foray into the Solar Thermal Energy sector.The company is looking to expand in India where the JNNSM has given equal importance to Solar Thermal Technology.
  • Areva – Giant Global Electrical Equipment Conglomerate which entered the Solar Thermal Energy area by acquiring a struggling CSP startup Ausra.The company is planning like the others to make a major investment of around $3 billion to build 1000 MW capacity in India.The company is the biggest nuclear equipment supplier in the world and has interests in biomass energy as well.

G.E. Plans to Build Largest Solar Panel Plant in U.S.

In a move that could shake up the American solar industry, General Electric plans to announce on Thursday that it will build the nation’s largest photovoltaic panel factory, with the goal of becoming a major player in the market.

The plant, whose location has not been determined, will employ 400 workers and create 600 related jobs, according to G.E. The factory would annually produce solar panels that would generate 400 megawatts of energy, the company said, and would begin manufacturing thin-film photovoltaic panels made of a material called cadmium telluride in 2013. While less efficient than conventional solar panels, thin-film photovoltaics can be produced at a lower cost and have proven attractive to developers and utilities building large-scale power plants.

G.E. has signed agreements to supply solar panels to generate 100 megawatts of electric power to customers, including a deal for panels generating 60 megawatts with NextEra Energy Resources.


Abhishek Shah

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