GE: Like A Little Solar With Your Wind?

Illinois is wind power country, make no mistake about it. In 2011, the state ranked fifth in the nation in installed capacity [PDF], and in 2010 only Texas added more wind that Illinois. But tucked away in the state’s renewable portfolio standard is a little provision that ensures that solar won’t get completely left behind. It’s that provision that is driving the just-announced development of a 23-megawatt (MW) solar PV plant in La Salle County – and giving GE’s emerging solar business a boost.

The Invenergy Grand Ridge Solar project will go up right alongside Invenergy’s much larger Grand Ridge Wind, which has 140 turbines producing up to 210 MW of power. Those are GE turbines, and the solar project will use GE technology, as well, as the multinational conglomerate moves to leverage its strength in wind to boost its newer solar efforts. The solar business might grow in importance to GE if the U.S. doesn’t extend the production tax credit – a key driver of wind development – before it expires at the end of this year.

GE solar thin-film with wind

image via GE

“Expertise in multiple technologies is the future of the renewable energy landscape,” Victor Abate, vice president of GE’s Renewable Energy business, said in a statement. “At GE, we’re uniquely able to partner on both wind and solar projects with customers like Invenergy.”

GE is making a big investment in solar manufacturing, building a plant in the Denver suburb of Aurora that will be able to produce 400 MW of thin-film panels annually. The biggest solar factory in the United States now operating is in Hillsboro, Ore., where SolarWorld’s U.S. unit can churn out 350 MW of crystalline silicon PV panels.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.