GE Demonstrates Scalable, Nano-Based Solar Cell; Raises Renewable Energy Investment Target To $6 Billion

January 17, 2008 by Jeff Shepard

GE Global Research, the centralized research organization of the General Electric Company (GE), announced that scientists on their Nano Photovoltaics (PV) team have demonstrated a scalable silicon nanowire-based solar cell, which the company claims has the potential to achieve up to 18% efficiency and be produced at a dramatically lower cost than conventional solar cells.

"GE’s demonstration of the silicon nanowire-based cell represents a significant breakthrough in our efforts to enable higher efficiency cells that can be produced at much lower production costs," said Dr. Loucas Tsakalakos, Project Leader of GE’s Nano PV team. "Today, higher efficiency often comes with a higher price tag. Through the unique processing and materials property benefits enabled by nanotechnology, we’re aiming to break that paradigm and pave the way to making solar power more affordable for consumers while maintaining and even improving cell performance."

GE states that its solar research program involves a comprehensive examination across the entire solar industry value chain to enable technology solutions that will make solar power more affordable and available in the U.S. and around the world. The program is said to have a balanced mix of short and long-term technology initiatives to achieve its goals.

GE has an ongoing collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as part of the agency’s Solar America Initiative that is focused on more near-term low-cost PV solutions. GE is managing a three-year, $46.7 million project that is looking across the entire value chain to make solar energy more cost effective and more readily available in the marketplace. The program is evaluating three different technologies for the solar cell: high efficiency silicon-based cells, molded silicon wafers, and flexible thin films. DOE’s Solar America Initiative is designed to make solar energy cost-competitive with conventional forms of electricity by 2015.

GE also announced that it will increase its investment in renewable energy by 50%, to US $6 billion by 2010. GE Energy Financial Services stated that the most attractive renewable energy investment at this time is in the field of wind energy, representing about two-thirds of its portfolio.