Is This a Sign Solar will Finally Compete with Oil?

In the world of renewable energy (NYSE:PBW), cost and efficiency are key to making the technology affordable compared to Oil (NYSE:USO) and Natural Gas (NYSE:UNG). Today, General Electric (NYSE:GE) announced the highest-ever reported efficiency for CdTe thin film solar panels — a huge step toward making more solar (NYSE:TAN) available and affordable on a large scale. To make the technology, GE plans to build the largest solar plant in the U.S.

Victor Abate, vice-president of GE’s Renewable Energy business, told The New York Times: “For the past five years, we’ve been investing extremely heavily in solar. Going to scale is the next move.”

This is one of the highest profile solar projects since Xcel (NYSE:XEL) built a 74-acre solar facility in Colorado in 2009.

The new panels will be produced at a new 400 MW solar plant that, once completed, will be the country’s largest and will produce enough panels to power 80,000 homes annually — that’s one solar panel coming off the assembly line every 10 seconds. The new facility is part of an expected $600 million plus investment made by GE in solar technology and commercialization. This is a huge development in the Energy (NYSE:XLE) industry.

This is particularly great news for the entire solar sector as it continues to increase the size of the market for public companies such as First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR), SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWRA), Suntech Power (NYSE:STP), Yingli Green Energy (NYSE:YGE), JA Solar (NASDAQ:JASO), Trina Solar (NYSE:TSL), LDK Solar (NYSE:LDK), and MEMC Electronic Materials (NYSE:WFR).

In addition, today GE announced more than 100 megawatts of new commercial agreements for solar thin film products, including panels, inverters, and total solar power plants. GE’s largest solar agreement to date remains with NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE), for 60 megawatts of thin film solar panels. Once deployed, the panels will help grow NextEra’s solar power portfolio, solidifying the company’s position as the largest utility (NYSE:XLU) generator of solar energy in the U.S. Here were the Top 10 Solar Megawatt producers in 2009:

GE also has signed a 20 MW solar agreement with Invenergy for the supply of thin film solar panels and GE Brilliance solar inverters. Invenergy, a Chicago-based clean energy generation company, will install the solar products at a project site in Illinois that, upon completion, will be one of the largest solar installations in the state.”