GE abandons solar panel manufacturing, inks deal with First Solar

In a potentially significant move for the global solar industry, First Solar has inked a major new technology and sales partnership with GE that sees the U.S. industrial conglomerate taking a 1.77 percent stake in the solar developer.

Under the terms of the deal, Arizona-based First Solar, which operates as a solar manufacturer and project developer, has acquired GE's thin film cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar intellectual property portfolio, paying the engineering giant 1.75 million shares valued around $82 million. The deal gives GE a 1.77 percent stake that it has agreed to retain for at least three years.

Significantly, the deal includes a major technology and development partnership that commits the two companies to working together on the development of CdTe technologies and will result in GE purchasing First Solar modules for its pipeline of solar farm projects. Meanwhile, First Solar has committed to purchasing inverters from GE Energy Management for use in First Solar's global solar deployments.

"We are creating an exciting synergy with this deal," said Jim Hughes, First Solar's chief executive, in a statement. "The addition of GE's PV thin film technology and R&D resources will advance our technology roadmap, while realizing cost reduction in our manufacturing process."

GE, already established as a leading player in the wind energy market, previously has touted the idea of installing solar panels and wind turbines at the same site and has confirmed that it will now promote First Solar panels to its utility customers.

The deal represents a major boost for First Solar, which this week also announced that it has acquired a 1.5GW project pipeline in the U.S. and Mexico from Element Power for an undisclosed sum.

However, the acquisitions were overshadowed somewhat by confirmation that its latest quarterly financial results failed to meet expectations.

According to reports, shares slid by around 9 percent as the company announced that project delays meant net sales for the second quarter fell $235 million against the previous quarter to $520 million. Net income also fell from $0.66 per fully diluted share in the first quarter to $0.37 in the second quarter.

This article originally appeared at BusinessGreen.

Solar installation image courtesy of First Solar.