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Invenergy plans solar farm in Illinois

Solar panels soak up sun’s rays City Solar West Pullman neighborhood last July. Chicago-based Invenergy plans building solar farm Illinois.

Solar panels soak up the sun’s rays at City Solar in the West Pullman neighborhood last July. Chicago-based Invenergy plans on building a solar farm in Illinois. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 4, 2011 7:34AM



Invenergy, a Chicago wind and solar power company, will use new thin-film solar panels and inverters that General Electric Co. says demonstrate breakthrough technology at a solar farm to be built in Illinois.

Invenergy, with headquarters at 1 S. Wacker, will use the components to generate 20 megawatts of energy. Neither GE nor Invenergy would say how much the agreement is worth, and neither could say where the solar farm will be located in Illinois.

Invenergy announced Dec. 16 that it will provide Commonwealth Edison with solar energy generated at the undisclosed site, and wind energy generated at a wind farm in LaSalle County.

Invenergy is one of at least 15 locally headquartered companies that are playing a part in the wind- and solar-power marketplace.

GE also announced Thursday that it will spend $600 million to build the nation’s largest solar-panel factory at a yet-to-be-announced location. GE said the thin-film solar panels it is selling to Invenergy and another alternative-power company, NextEra, have tested the most efficient on the market in what the company called “a huge step toward making more solar available and affordable on a large scale.”

GE said its technology allows about 13 percent greater efficiency in solar panels, with each 1 percent increase in efficiency enabling a 10 percent cheaper cost.

The plant, which will make the so-called cadmium telluride panels, will employ 400 and start producing enough panels to power 80,000 homes yearly by 2013, GE said.

Analysts say GE will likely become a competitive threat to other solar companies such as First Solar, the world’s largest solar-panel maker, as well as small players.

The news highlights Chicago’s growing role in providing alternative energies, with Chicago-based Carbon Day setting up 100 electric-vehicle charging stations throughout the region, and a growing number of data centers in the area implementing carbon-free systems.



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