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Friday, June 23, 2006

Nanosolar Announces 430 MW Manufacturing Facility

Talk about coming out of the gate strong! (REA) relays news that solar photovoltaic (PV) startup Nanosolar has announced that it has started executing on its plan to build a volume cell-production factory with a total annual cell output of 430 megawatt (MW) once fully built, or approximately 200 million cells per year, and an advanced panel assembly factory designed to produce more than one million solar panels per year.

Presently in pilot production in its Palo Alto, California, facility, Nanosolar, who you may remember from a 2005 National Geographic article on alternative energy options, announced that it has started ordering volume production equipment for what it says could be the world's largest solar cell manufacturing factory.

According to REA, Nanosolar also announced that its first cell fabrication facility will be located in the San Francisco Bay area and that its first panel fab - for a broad array of novel product form factors using advanced processes - is expected to be located in Berlin, Germany.

The REA article continues:

Seed-financed by the founders of Google, the company's team started pursuing its mission of making solar electricity more affordable in 2002. After four years of commercial research and development, including two years of manufacturing process development and engineering, the company says it is now delivering on its ambition to produce a less expensive, mass-manufacturable solar cell.

"Thin-film printing overcomes the complexity, high cost, and yield and scalability limitations associated with vacuum-based processes. Nanosolar's technology enables low-cost, high-yield production previously unattainable," said Chris Eberspacher, Nanosolar's head of technology. "This allows us to produce cells very inexpensively and assemble them into panels that are comparable in efficiency to that of high-volume silicon-based PV panels."

Werner Dumanski, Nanosolar's head of manufacturing and a storage-disk industry manufacturing veteran, said that with Nanosolar's printing process, the fully loaded cell cost -- including materials, consumables, energy, labor, facility and capital -- is less than the depreciation expense alone that vacuum thin-film companies must pay for the equipment that produces their cells.

He added that a factory of this capacity would cost more than one billion dollars to build if one used conventional solar technology.

"Given the distinctly superior capital efficiency of our unique process technology, we can achieve this scale with a lot less capital and as a startup company," Dumanski said.

Right on schedule!

Nanosolar has been on the vanguard of the thin film PV movement and it's fitting that they are moving to large scale (and 430 MW/year is definitely large scale!) production soon.

Now it's time to watch and see how cheap their PV panels are when they come out. I have a feeling that, like rooftop solar concentrators being commercialized now (I'm thinking of Green and Gold Energy's SunCube in particutlar), Nanosolar's thin film PVs will break the incentive system in many states (especially California) - people will be able to install their PV arrays (either solar concentrators or thin film PVs) for basically nothing after rebates and incentives...

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