This post is from the way back, 2007 and was said to come on the market one year later, If it did we sure didn’t see it!
Nanosolar coatings are as thin as a layer of paint and can tranfer sunlight into power quite efficiently. Imagine the possibilities, from solar coated shingles to solar lined windows to solar powered cell phones and ipods.
Solar powered buildings and homes might just become standard in the future thanks to this innovative technology by Nanosolar Inc. The almighty dollar will launch these thin-film solar cells into worldwide applications thanks to the fact that it’s actually cheaper than burning coal. The underlying technology for these solar cells is nothing new, having been around for decades, but Nanosolar has created the actual technology to manufacture and mass produce the solar sheets. The solar cells are produced by a solar printing press of sorts rolling out these aptly named PowerSheets rapidly and cheaply. The machines apply a layer of solar-absorbing nano-ink onto metal sheets as thin as aluminum foil reducing production costs to a mere tenth of current solar panels and at a rate of several hundred feet per minute. The first commercial cells for consumer use are scheduled to be released this year.
Cost has always been the burdening factor weighing down the mass application of solar technology at nearly $3 per watt. In order to compete with the energy produced from coal solar has been in need of finding a way to shrink its costs down to $1 per watt. Nanosolar’s cells use absolutely no silicon as is the standard for current solar production and the efficiency of the PowerSheet cells are competitive with the traditional systems as well. The golden kicker, the cost to produce these solar coatings is a mere 30 cents per watt!!
Nanosolar has built what is soon to be the largest solar plant in world in San Jose and once full production begins early next year the facility is capable of producing a whopping 430 megawatts per year, more than the combined total of every other solar manufacturer in the U.S. The biggest problem for Nanosolar is keeping up with the impending solar boom. California recently launched the Million Solar Roofs initiative providing tax breaks and rebates to encourage the installation of $100,000 solar roofs per year for a solid decade. Thanks to the innovative approach Nanosolar is poised to launch the solar revolution and we the consumer stand to benefit greatly as the result.
Updated ( Saturday, 08 March 2008 )
Large-Scale, Cheap Solar Electricity
This week, Nanosolar, a startup in Palo Alto, CA, announced plans to build a production facility with the capacity to make enough solar cells annually to generate 430 megawatts. This output would represent a substantial portion of the worldwide production of solar energy.
According to Nanosolar’s CEO Martin Roscheisen, the company will be able to produce solar cells much less expensively than is done with existing photovoltaics because its new method allows for the mass-production of the devices. In fact, maintains Roscheisen, the company’s technology will eventually make solar power cost-competitive with electricity on the power grid.
Nanosolar also announced this week more than $100 million in funding from various sources, including venture firms and government grants. The company was founded in 2001 and first received seed money in 2003 from Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Experts say Nanosolar’s ambitious plans for such a large factory are surprising. “It’s an extraordinary number,” says Ken Zweibel, who heads up thin-film research at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, CO. Most groups building new solar technologies “add maybe 25 or 50 megawatts,” he says. “The biggest numbers are closer to 100. So it’s a huge number, and it’s a huge number in a new technology, so it’s doubly unusual. All the [photovoltaics] in the world is 1,700 megawatts.”
Today, the lion’s share of solar cells are based on crystalline silicon, which is about three to five times too costly to compete with grid electricity, Zweibel says.
Nanosolar’s technology involves a thin film of copper, indium, gallium, and selenium (CIGS) that absorbs sunlight and converts it into electricity. The basic technology has been around for decades, but it has proven difficult to produce it reliably and cheaply. Nanosolar has developed a way to make these cells using a printing technology similar to the kind used to print newspapers, rather than expensive vacuum-based methods.
Although the company expects to start selling solar cells next year, ramping up to full production will take more time. Meanwhile, high demand for solar cells worldwide will keep prices high, Roscheisen says. Eventually, however, he says the company hopes to attract more customers with lower prices, in several years reaching prices that make solar-power electricity competitive with the grid.
Zweibel says the company is likely to face challenges in ramping up production, although their pilot manufacturing facility is a big step. And he adds that Nanosolar is not alone in developing inexpensive manufacturing processes for CIGS solar cells, and at least one other company is working with a printing process.
Meanwhile, Andrew Gabor, senior engineer at Evergreen Solar, a silicon solar-cell developer and manufacturer in Marlboro, MA, says current supply problems related to conventional solar cells are easing as more production capacity is coming on line. This could mean that prices for silicon cells start dropping again, eventually becoming competitive with grid electricity. He suggests that in the future solar electricity supply will likely be met by a mix of technologies.