GE Stalls Solar Factory Construction
Add another solar factory to the list of closures and delays that have been plaguing the industry. Solar startups, including Solyndra and Abound Solar, a recipient of government funds that declared bankruptcy last week, have been failing left and right in the face of low solar panel prices. Now GE has reportedly stopped work on its planned 400-megawatt solar panel factory in Colorado. It says it needs to improve the power output of its technology if it’s to compete.
Many of the companies that are failing had bet that thin-film solar panels that are less efficient (and so produce less power) than conventional silicon-based ones could break into the market by being less expensive to manufacture. It was a prospect given credence by the dazzling success of First Solar, a U.S.-based thin-film solar manufacturer that became the world’s largest solar panel maker at a time when silicon prices were particularly high. But prices for conventional silicon panels fell faster than these startups could drive down their manufacturing costs.
It was thought that a company like GE, with its deep pockets, might be able to scale up production to the point that its thin-film solar panels could compete with silicon. The reports throw this into doubt. It might be that both low cost and at least comparable efficiency levels are needed to compete.
A better strategy for startups may be finding ways to inexpensively manufacture solar cells that are far more efficient than conventional silicon ones. Since the cells are more powerful, fewer are needed and installation is cheaper (per watt), which could give such companies a competitive advantage.
Geoffrey Hinton tells us why he’s now scared of the tech he helped build
“I have suddenly switched my views on whether these things are going to be more intelligent than us.”
ChatGPT is going to change education, not destroy it
The narrative around cheating students doesn’t tell the whole story. Meet the teachers who think generative AI could actually make learning better.
Meet the people who use Notion to plan their whole lives
The workplace tool’s appeal extends far beyond organizing work projects. Many users find it’s just as useful for managing their free time.
Learning to code isn’t enough
Historically, learn-to-code efforts have provided opportunities for the few, but new efforts are aiming to be inclusive.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.