GE/First Solar team up for the solar space

GE and First Solar announced yesterday a multi layered transaction that sees the two giants collaborate in the space of thin film solar cells and modules.

The transaction between the American firms is relevant to South Africa as both firms are circling the massive development of renewable energy market in the southern tip of the African continent.

The pillar of the transaction sees First Solar acquiring GE’s global cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar intellectual property portfolio. The firms said the transaction sets a course for significant advancement of photovoltaic (PV) thin-film solar technology. GE received 1.75 million shares of First Solar common stock as part of this transaction. GE has agreed to retain the shares for at least three years.

The firms said the combination of the two companies’ complementary technologies and First Solar’s existing manufacturing capabilities are expected to accelerate the development of cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar module performance and improve efficiency at manufacturing scale. In addition, GE Global Research and First Solar R&D will collaborate on future technology development to further advance CdTe solar technology.

GE, which has 34GW of renewable energy installed globally, will enhance its presence in solar through access to purchasing and branding First Solar’s modules for future global GE deployments, in addition to its investment in inverters, controls, balance of plant and ownership of utility scale systems.

Additionally, GE and First Solar have formed a commercial relationship around solar inverter technology. First Solar will continue to purchase inverters from GE Energy Management for use in First Solar’s global solar deployments to optimize electrical balance of plant. By combining complementary technologies, the collaboration is expected to lead to an improvement in solar grid integration, more competitive cost structures and a roadmap for combined electrical equipment.

“We are creating an exciting synergy with this deal,” said Jim Hughes, First Solar’s Chief Executive Officer. “The addition of GE’s PV thin film technology and R&D resources will advance our technology roadmap, while realizing 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.”

First Solar’s existing manufacturing sites will be used to further advance CdTe technology and achieve an increasingly competitive cost position. GE has decided to discontinue the build-out of its Aurora, Colorado, solar manufacturing facility.

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