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GE and First Solar to improve Solar Technology

Solar photovoltaicGnereal Electric Co. is going to acquire stock in First Solar, Inc. and will work to improve solar panel technologies in order to improve efficiency and decrease costs. GE will receive 1.75 million shares of First Solar stock.

The companies announced Tuesday that First Solar will acquire General Electric Co.’s technology for making thin film panels.

Solar PV systems use an array of solar cells which maybe monocrystalline, polycrystalline or amorphous. Read more on different solar technologies here.

For making a monocrystalline silicon cell, absolutely pure semiconducting material is necessary. It guarantees a relatively high level of efficiency but is the most expensive type.

Polycrystalline types are more cost-efficient. Liquid silicon is poured into blocks that are subsequently sawed into plates and if a silicon film is deposited on glass or another substrate material, this is a so-called amorphous or thin layer cell. The layer thickness amounts to less than 1µm (thickness of a human hair: 50-100 µm). The production costs are lower due to the low material costs. Efficiency is much lower.

First Solar is the world’s largest producer of thin-film panels and among the world’s largest solar farm developers.

GE’s thin-film technology has performed well in lab tests, but is not manufactured at large scale.

First Solar will attempt to incorporate GE’s technology into its extensive and well-developed manufacturing process. GE will purchase and brand First Solar panels for its own installations.

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