Microsoft's Bill Gates may think solar and wind power are "cute" technologies, but at least one other industrial stalwart is taking them quite seriously.

This morning, General Electric (NYSE: GE) announced the release of a new product that's generating a lot of buzz in renewable energy circles. The so-called "FlexEfficiency" power plant is said to be based on the jet engines GE designs for Airbus and Boeing, but instead of burning jet fuel, it runs on "clean natural gas." In addition to being environmentally friendly, the company also boasts that the FlexEfficiency plant is more fuel-efficient than any other gas turbine on the planet.

So why advertise its "born from jets" lineage at all? Because the name of the game here is speed. GE unveiled the new power plant in Europe, where investments in solar and wind power have been all the rage. Europeans are intimately familiar with the downside to these technologies -- namely, that the weather isn't always windy, the sun doesn't always shine, and to paraphrase: "Ain't no [solar power,] when she's gone."

Foolish takeaway
FlexEfficiency can solve this problem by quickly kicking in to supply the grid when skies are grey and doldrums dominate. It's bound to be popular in the European market -- and as a side benefit, just might boost solar power shops like First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR), whose stock has been suffering from fears of subsidy cuts. The more GE boosts the case for solar, the more willing Euro-governments may be to loosen the purse strings -- for GE and First Solar both.

Is this better news for GE or for First Solar? Add both stocks to your Fool Watchlist, and watch how the stories play out.

Fool contributor Rich Smith holds no position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Microsoft and First Solar. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a diagonal call position in Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.