GE recently unveiled its first 'hybrid' sale of 23MW of solar panels to a US-based wind customer, Invenergy, for installation next to the latter's 210MW Grand Ridge wind project in Illinois.
"Putting wind and solar in an interconnected system can more effectively use the transmission system, and energy can be more easily dispatched," said Vic Abate, vice president for renewables at GE, America's largest wind-turbine manufacturer.
"Wind tends to blow more at night and solar captures power during the day," he said. "Most wind farms have power lines [that are] used 40% of the time; [for] solar [it's] about 20%," he told Windpower Monthly.
Turbine manufacturers are facing plummeting sales in the US, and the wind industry faces expiration of eligibility for the federal Production Tax Credit on 31 December. Congress is discussing an extension to the ten-year subsidy.
Solar projects can instead draw on the Investment Tax Credit, which does not expire until 2016. Solar panel costs have now dropped enough to justify GE's strategy of hybrid sales, said Abate. He added that using solar panels in wind farm locations was attractive because "you already know the community, how to get the permits and secure interconnections to the grid".