hanks to innovations by Nanosolar “thin film” technology, solar power may finally become a financially sustainable alternative energy source! Nanosolar has garnered a lot of press recently, which can be attributed to their new printable thinfilm solar technology. Thin film solar panels require less resources to construct and also cost less to ship due to decreased weight and size. Some thinfilm panels can even be rolled up for transporting, and even mounted onto curved surfaces. Nanosolar’s thin- film technology was recently awarded Popular Science’s Innovation of the Year award and the company has since been featured on numerous television shows, newspapers, magazines, and of course blogs. The breakthrough with Nanosolar is that they have engineered a way to print off solar panels just like a newspaper press. It’s fast and easy to make, saves valuable resources like silicon (which is experiencing a shortage due to computer and game console demand), and hyper-efficient in converting sunlight into electricity.
Founders Martin Roscheisen and Brian Sager, both Stanford PhD’s, started the company in 2002 with the vision of applying a “technologically aggressive approach to solar power”. With seed money provided by Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page among other investors, Nanosolar’s mission statement is to deliver “cost-efficient solar electricity” and they’re well positioned to do just that.
Thin-film solar cells have been around for about a decade, but have suffered from several problems. The semiconductor was deposited on the cell using a vacuum process that was slow and costly, and the glass used as a substrate was heavy and fragile.
Nanosolar’s innovation came in the form of a nanoparticle ink that is sprayed onto rolls of thin metal about the same thickness as aluminum foil. The process is similar to printing on a sheet of paper. These technological advances will reduce the price of solar energy from the December 2007 price of $4.83 per Watt to less than $1 per Watt. You can visit Nanosolar’s Technology section for a detailed description of both of the problems they faced and their solutions. With plans to go into production, Nanosolar secured 647,000 square feet of manufacturing space in San Jose, CA and in Germany. Unfortunately for all you savvy investors Nanosolar is privately held and has no plans to raise capital by selling stock.