GE Puts Brakes on World's Biggest Solar Factory in Colorado

General Electric’s Energy division, GE Energy, is delaying the build-out of the world’s largest solar manufacturing plant in Aurora, Colorado.

The decision isn’t surprising given the slew of solar companies that have recently shut down because of the world solar glut and arduous pricing environment. It’s a bad time to be adding solar capacity.

GE is suspending further construction of the 400 megawatt (MW), 400,000 square foot factory until conditions improve, at least 18 months.

The company says it will instead focus on improving its ultra-thin solar technology, in its bid to outcompete the industry leader, First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR).

The factory, which was due to come online next year, will probably restart construction in 2014 instead, with mass production beginning at least a year after that.

GE’s new factory would scale production of cadmium-telluride technology it acquired last year when it bought PrimeStar Solar.  GE plans to produce panels that are more efficient and lightweight than First Solar’s, which currently stand  11.7% conversion efficiency.  GE says it’s already reached 14% and is  shooting for over 15% efficiency.

When it comes online, GE’s factory is expected to create 355 solar jobs and produce enough solar panels to power 80,000 homes a year. The factory is part of GE’s $600 million investment in solar.

GE’s move is the latest in a string of recent setbacks for solar manufacturers. In late June, Abound Solar said it would suspend operations and file for bankruptcy. Like several other young companies with promising solar technologies and even some of the foremost solar pioneers, it can’t compete with the low prices offered by Chinese manufacturers.

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