The photovoltaic and printed electronics industry has been watching Nanosolar for years. The company has raised of the order of half a billion dollars, aiming to make CIGS PV on a roll to roll printed basis. But no word has been given on the cell efficiency, production start date or other information that could back up their claims. Is it all a damp squib?
It seems not so. This week, Nanosolar has made a series of impressive announcements about its cell efficiency, production and orders, which reveal for the first time more details about what the company has achieved. We summarise these below.
Nanosolar - $4.1 billion orders
Nanosolar have completed its European panel-assembly factory with fully-automated factory processes that produce finished nanosolar panels from nanosolar cells using an innovative manufacturing technique.
The new factory is automated to sustain a production rate of one panel every ten seconds, or an annual capacity of 640MW when operated 24x7. Production is presently set at approximately one MW per month but this will increase to meet customer contractural commitments which total $4.1 billion to date.
Nanosolar Utility Panel™ technology is used in the manufacturing process which is the industry's first solar electricity panel specifically designed and developed for utility-scale solar power system deployment.
The panel effectively eliminates the "balance-of-system penalty" that medium-efficient thin panels have conventionally carried relative to higher-efficiency (yet far more expensive) silicon panels.
Electrically this technology is the industry's highest current thin panel, up to a factor of six. It is also the first photovoltaic module certified by TUV for a system voltage of 1500V, or 50% higher than the previously highest certified. Together this enables utility-scale panel array lengths, and results in a host of substantial cost savings during the deployment of solar power plants. Mechanically, the package used for the panel is distinctly stronger than that of conventional thin-film-on-glass modules, achieving almost twice the mounting span, thus substantially lowering mounting costs.
The company has been busy. Earlier this year serial production in its San Jose, California, cell production factory commenced whilst their low-cost printed-CIGS-on-metal-foil cell stack was independently verified by NREL to be efficient up to 16.4%, but in production Nanosolar report efficiencies of 11% or so for their first cells.
Printing CIGS onto inexpensive metal foils has received wide skeptism while some have wondered if it would be possible to deliver efficient cells. Nanosolar believe this result represents two world records in one, making it the most efficient printed solar cell of any kind (all semiconductor and device technologies) as well as the most efficient cell on a truly low-cost metal foil. Material costs are only one or two cents per square foot x 1mm thickness.
Other PV news
Clairvoyant Energy partners with Oerlikon Solar for renewable energy manufacturing park
Plans to convert the 320 acre Wixom Ford Motor Co assembly plant outside Detroit into a renewable energy manufacturing park by a group of renewable energy companies has been announced. The consortium hopes to refurbish and upgrade with new manufacturing lines for solar panels and advanced energy storage. In preparation of the project hopefully moving forward Clairvoyant Energy of Santa Barbara, Calif has already teamed up with Oerlikon Solar USA Inc as its preferred equipment partner for the thin film solar panel manufacturing line.
Clairvoyant Energy plans to hire 300 employees for their production facility, which will use Oerlikon Solar equipment, starting in late 2011 and add another 700 later depending on demand.
If the project is approved, Oerlikon Solar, winner of the 2009 CELL AWARD for the best technical product for thin film module manufacturing, will establish a regional sales and support center at the Wixom site.
The total investment for the project is expected to reach $1.275 billion reportedly the largest economic redevelopment plan ever promoted in Michigan. Full details are expected to be released later today.
Applied Materials' model offers a blueprint to stimulate local economic development
Another company that is looking to help pave the way to affordable clean energy and stimulate local economic development is Applied Materials who has developed an innovative fab2farm™ business model for solar deployment designed to bring cost-effective, utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) power generation capability to local areas.
Key to the business model is a locally-sited solar panel factory built by a solar module manufacturer using Applied`s revolutionary SunFab thin film production line which produces modules approximately six times the output of conventional glass solar panels. Since electricity generation is sited for distribution near load centers, a solar farm can be quickly deployed without the need for extensive, costly transmission lines. This utility-scale solar farm would not only generate cost-competitive, clean, renewable energy for the community, it could also help the utility avoid up to 170,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions per year.
The Applied SunFab production line is designed to produce 80MW of solar panels per year or enough to power 35,000 homes during peak energy use hours. The company estimates that the factory could generate more than 2,500 jobs and account for $400-$500 million of local economic activity per year.