Aurora Lands GE Solar Plant, Capping Big Week for Colorado’s Economic Development

By David Hill, Colorado Energy News

After all, it’s been a great week for the state and its workers, especially after the Governor’s announcement late yesterday that Aurora is landing the state-of-the-art GE solar panel plant that several states throughout the country wanted … badly.

image via Shutterstock

First, on Tuesday Arrow Electronics announced it would be moving its global corporate headquarters to Englewood, and eventually adding payroll.  Then, on Thursday, Governor Hickenlooper joined local leaders and representatives of the state’s solar industry in celebrating the offical debut of Dow Chemical’s Powerhouse™ Solar Shingle system in homes at a D.R. Horton-built subdivision in Arvada (a full report on what this means will be published in CEN over the weekend).

Finally … late yesterday, “Hick” told a gathering attending the Aurora Economic Development Council’s annual dinner at the Hyatt Regency in Denver that Aurora would be the site for a new General Electric manufacturing plant for thin-film solar panels.

GE will begin retrofitting an existing warehouse near Interstate 70 and Tower Road in January and start producing panels next year at the $300 million PrimeStar Solar plant, which will employ 355 people.

“With a PrimeStar fabrication plant here, you see a really strong cluster of solar companies emerging in Colorado,” said Christine Shapard, was quoted in the Denver Post.  She is executive director of the Colorado Cleantech Industry Association.

“GE wouldn’t have picked Colorado if we hadn’t had the workforce and the talent that they need. That differentiates Colorado from many other states.”

GE is the biggest name in a growing group of major solar companies calling Colorado their home, including Longmont-based Abound Solar, Thornton-based Ascent Solar Technologies and Denver-based Abengoa Solar, which is owned by a Spanish company. The state also is home to the SolarTAC research park in Aurora.

“This is big business, and we are ready to take it mainstream here in Colorado,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said Thursday about GE’s bet on solar in the state.

As we reported in Colorado Energy News last spring, a veritable ”who’s who”of state and industry leaders lobbied the manufacturing giant to locate the new plant in Colorado, and it looks like their efforts and Hickenlooper’s leadership have paid off.

GE announced in April that it was investing $600 million in solar technology, which included purchasing Arvada-based PrimeStar Solar Inc., a thin-film solar panel manufacturer. GE’s panel ouput at the new plant will be based on product development from PrimeStar and could be the largest such PV facilityin the country. GE said the new facility would employ 400 workers and could eventually generate up to 400 megawatts of annual electricity.

The competition for the new facility was been fierce, with as many as 10 states vying for the plant, including the biggest competitor, New York. Colorado won because it had a technology head start and a facility that could quickly be turned into a factory, said Victor Abate, head of GE’s renewable-energy business.

GE will invest $300 million to retrofit and expand a 200,000-square-foot former L’Oreal Worldwide warehouse in the Majestic Commercenter. The company hopes to double the building’s size within the next two years.

Editor’s Note: This news story comes to us as a cross post courtesy of our new content partners at Colorado Energy News. Author credit for the post goes to David Hill.

I am the editor-in-chief and founder for EarthTechling. This site is my desire to bring the world of green technology to consumers in a timely and informative matter. Prior to this my previous ventures have included a strong freelance writing career and time spent at Silicon Valley start ups.