Mines instrumental in bringing solar to General Electric
GOLDEN, Colo., April 12, 2011 — The solar industry took a major step forward this week thanks to a bright idea starting at Colorado School of Mines and the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL).
Last week, General Electric purchased Arvada, Colo. based PrimeStar Solar, Inc. with the intent of scaling up production of PrimeStar’s CdTe photovoltaic panel production line. The company’s technology produces some of the most efficient CdTe solar panels ever made. With this technology, GE announced it will build the largest solar power plant in the nation.
“This milestone puts us another step closer to having photovoltaics become a mainstream method of making electricity,” said Dr. Joe Beach, professor of physics at Mines and one of the founders of PrimeStar Solar Inc.
Two of the founders and several of PrimeStar Solar’s early key employees were trained in CdTe technology at Colorado School of Mines.
“Mines’ ability to produce high quality engineers and scientists with CdTe-specific knowledge has been an important part of the company’s success,” said Beach. “This will help give utility companies the confidence they need to invest in photovoltaic systems for the long term.”
The record-setting panel was produced on the PrimeStar 30-megawatt manufacturing line. It was measured by NREL at a12.8 percent aperture area efficiency. This panel surpasses all previously published records for CdTe thin film, which is the most affordable solar technology in the industry.
NREL transitioned the technology to PrimeStar through a cooperative research and development agreement signed in 2007.
Continually increasing solar panel efficiency is a key component of GE’s goal to offer advanced solar products while reducing the total cost of electricity for utilities and consumers. In fact, a 1 percent increase in efficiency is equal to an approximate 10 percent decrease in system cost.
To arrange an interview with Mines researchers or a tour of a Mines laboratory please contact the Department of Public Relations.
Marsha Williams, Acting Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3326 / MarsWill@mines.edu