General Electric is trying to convince its wind turbine customers to purchase solar panels as well. This is according to Vic Abate, who is the head of the company’s renewables unit. One of which is Invenergy LLC, which is planning to install 23 megawatts of thin-film solar panels at a site near its 210 megawatt wind farm at Illinois.
The transaction would be the first if its kind that GE has received from a wind customer. Abate said the company wants its turbine buyers to try the hybrid concept, which is combining their existing wind power system with solar power. He said that offering solar panels would help in the estimated decline in turbine sales.
Developers in the United States have stopped ordering for wind turbines for 2013 because of the concern regarding the expiration of the federal tax incentive for wind energy at the end of this year. The cost of solar energy has gone down to the level that it is already competitive with other power sources. It is easy to incorporate them into existing wind power plants because the developers already know how to get the appropriate licenses, the community and secure the interconnections to the grid.
Wind power is strongest at night while solar power generates power during the day. Installing both at a single location would lower the costs for both systems and make the output more stable. It would make the generation of power more manageable.
GE equipment is used to generate a quarter of the world’s power. The company is building a solar panel manufacturing plant in Colorado that would be completed by the end of 2012. It would make its first shipments in 2013.
For the Invenergy project, GE would provide solar panels produce by Showa Shell Sekiyu KK’s Solar Frontier unit. The company has a partnership deal with GE. But once GE’s own factory is up and running, it would be able to produce as much as 400 megawatts of thin-film solar panels that utilizes cadmium telluride. This product is similar to First Solar’s panel.
According to reports, as much as 9 gigawatts of wind turbines will be installed in the United States in 2012. The market would decline in 2013 once the Product Tax Credit expires. The wind market would crash unless an extension is signed. The incentive provides 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity produced via wind energy. Jobs in the wind power industry will be gone if the tax credit ends.