The General Electric Company announced it is accelerating its solar energy research program with the help of an $8.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of President Bush’s Solar America Initiative. U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Andy Karsner and other representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) visited GE Energy’s Newark, Del., solar manufacturing facility on March 16 to highlight the company’s selection for the initiative and to discuss the future of solar energy in the U.S.

 

Last week, the DOE announced funding for 13 solar technology development projects, including one to be led by GE, that would help decrease the cost of manufacturing and distributing solar electricity. The Solar America Initiative is part of President Bush’s Advanced Energy Initiative. The funding is subject to award negotiation and appropriation from the U.S. Congress.

 

According to the DOE, the funding for the first year of GE’s project is expected to be roughly $8.1 million, with approximately $18.6 million available over three years if the GE-led team meets its goals.

 

GE Energy will be heading an alliance of companies, universities and researchers that are collaborating to accelerate the large-scale commercialization of solar technology into products that are cost competitive with retail electricity rates without the need for government assistance. The GE-led team’s commercialization strategy focuses on residential and commercial buildings that currently consume more than 60 percent of the electricity generated in the United States. By 2010, GE and its team will be positioned to deliver more than 200 megawatts (MW) of easily installed, GE-branded solar electric products and Brilliance systems into the U.S. residential and commercial markets.

 

The alliance’s goal is to drive down the cost of electricity to make solar energy competitive with other power generation technologies, leading to widespread application in the United States.

 

In addition, balance-of-system technologies will be developed to support low-cost installation and increased energy yield and future enhancements to building energy management and power quality. All will support the development, commercial scale-up and customer delivery of complete solar systems.

 

Research will take place at both GE Energy’s facility in Newark, Del., and at the GE Global Research Center in Niskayuna, N.Y.

 

“We believe that GE’s participation in the Solar America Initiative will play a significant role in helping the United States solar industry grow rapidly,” said Victor Abate, vice president of renewables for GE Energy. “We are honored that the DOE chose GE Energy to be a part of this innovative program.”

 

GE’s alliance includes Renewable Energy Corporation, Solaicx, Xantrex Technology Inc., the University of Delaware’s Institute of Energy Conversion, Georgia Institute of Technology, North Carolina State University, Sandia National Laboratories and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

 

GE Energy’s vision for its solar business is to focus on performance improvements and technology developments. According to a study by the Solar Energy Industries Association and the Prometheus Institute, U.S. solar installations were projected to grow by 20 percent in 2006 to 120 MW-dc.

 

Solar power is among the renewable energy technologies that play a key role in ecomagination, GE’s corporate-wide initiative to address challenges such as the need for cleaner, more efficient sources of energy, reduced emissions and abundant sources of clean water. Under ecomagination, which was launched in May of 2005, GE will invest $1.5 billion annually in research in cleaner technologies by 2010, up from $700 million in 2004.