• Wednesday, June 18, 2008 Latest Update: 1:53PM

Greentech Solar

Nanosolar Creates Largest Thin-Film Tool

The company says that its coater can produce up to1 gigawatt of solar cells each year, potentially cutting manufacturing costs by two orders of magnitude.

Nanosolar said Wednesday it has created the industry’s largest solar production tool: a thin-film coater that has the capacity to produce up to 1 gigawatt of solar cells annually.

That compares with 10 to 30 megawatts of annual production capacity for most solar production tools, CEO Martin Roscheisen wrote on the company’s blog.

The tool, which uses the Nanosolar’s nanoparticle ink, costs $1.65 million and – at the speed at which it’s currently running, 100 feet per minute -- produces cells for a hundred times less than a high-vacuum process, he wrote.

Roscheisen, who also included a video of the tool in his post, said the company expects the tool to have the potential to reach speeds of up to 2,000 feet per minute.

He added that the tool delivers cells that can convert sunlight into electricity with up to 14.5 percent efficiency, but declined to answer a question about the average efficiency of the cells that are being produced.

Nanosolar in December announced it had begun production at its San Jose, Calif., facility. The company said in 2006 that the factory would have the capacity to produce 430 megawatts of cells, but it hasn’t discussed its actual production numbers since December. Nanosolar is also building a panel assembly facility in Germany.

Roscheisen told Greentech Media on Wednesday that all of Nanosolar’s initial production will be based on the new tool.

“Innovative nonvacuum thin-film process technology has become reality a lot quicker than anyone thought it would be possible – and at leapfrogging scale!” he said in an email.

Paul Maycock, president of solar-electric consulting and research firm Photovoltaic Energy Systems, said the announcement, if true, is very important.

After all, manufacturing costs for thin-film leader First Solar’s cadmium-telluride films are about $1 per watt, he said. That would equate to $1 billion for a gigawatt, with everything included.

While Nanosolar’s $1.65 million wouldn’t include the costs for the whole line, but just for one tool, it implies a “very significant” cost reduction, Maycock said.

“If they’ve got that, they’ve got the world by the tail,” he said. “It sounds like a major accomplishment, but the proof is in the product.”

Maycock warned that an announcement isn’t proof, and added that Nanosolar has been putting out press rele ases for years. In 2006, the company said it planned to reach mass production in 2007 (see Nanosolar to Build in San Jose).

“When are they going to have products?” he asked. “When can I buy them? Show me a product that I can check the efficiency of and can get for $2 or less. I have to adopt a ‘show me’ attitude with Nanosolar, but I don’t say they can’t do it – I hope they do. We need 14 percent thin films with prices below $2 a watt right now.” 

Roscheisen said the company isn't yet in normal volume production and isn't releasing any volume forecasts.

The company already has products commercially available to its existing customers and is starting work on a second 5-megawatt solar farm, in addition to the 1-megawatt farm it announced in December for its first customer, Beck Energy, he said. 

Comments [6]

  • Steve Pluvia 06/19/08 4:45 AM

    Nanosolar’s new 1GW tool seems to be saying “Yes We Can”.  Nanosolar CIGS could become the single greatest achievement of our time.

    Steve Pluvia

  • Hugh E Webber 06/22/08 2:49 PM

    Wow! I’m buying one of the half-dozen battery electric cars that will go on sale in 2010; now I’ll be able to go totally zero emissions with a rooftop Nano PV setup, and quit paying my utility to burn coal!

  • ty dan 07/2/08 7:01 PM

    you will never see this product in our hands.Why do you think power companys are investing so much?So every one can have cheap energy,not need them and put them out of the biz?Please.Wake up and quit living in a f*king pipe dream.I so sick of hearing about all this green bullsh*t.We will never haveheap energy from home and we wont all be driving EVs around with EEstors Battery.The people with money and power ARE NOT GOING TO GIVE IT UP!Wake the f*k up people.The rich will stay rich and the poor will stay poor.Congrats to the rich people that can spend 30,000 dollars on solar for the top of their Million dollar plus homes,so they can show every one how easy it is to go green.F**k off

  • Steve Pluvia 07/3/08 7:23 AM

    Toadman, if you bothered to take off your tin foil hat, you’d see the guy who killed the electric car on the grassy knoll pointing a loaded nanosolar pv panel at your pie hole.

  • mark reynolds 08/3/08 9:06 AM

    Business firms exist to make profits, but profits are going to be reduced if EV’s replace the ICE car. Much of our economy is based on the automobile, and its upkeep. Almost every business is related in some way to the car. What will happen to employment if the need to service a car is reduced?
    What happens to Midas, Pepboys, Kragen’s, smog check, AMCO, gas stations, Jiffylube, general service repair centers, the manufacturing plants that fabricate repair parts, the UPS people that deliver the parts, the corner deli or Taco Bells frequented by those firm’s workers at lunchtime? What about government agencies that depend on collecting all manner of tax revenue from the above interlinked economy?
    If people understand this scenario, then they will understand why they can’t yet buy an EV from the legacy business infrastructure. Only recently can one sniff the scent of a potential EV from upstart EV boutique manufacturers like Tesla (too costly for mass production partly because they hand-solder a battery pack of 6000 Lithium AA sized cells together in series-parallel groups), Aptera, BugE, etc., because a startup company does not need to address the risk that a service-free vehicle will parasitically affect revenue from other parts of its company.
    Curiously, Nissan’s CEO has advocated a pure EV but I have a hard time believing he really will build one and that the announcement is mostly PR in nature.
    What could replace displaced jobs from the ICE economy? Anyone who has flown from California to Florida has seen that most of the American land in between is empty and that a sizable portion of it is desert-like with plenty of sun exposure. This land could be loaded with massive solar and energy storage farms. This would employ a sizable workforce to build and then to maintain them. Solar farms could be photovoltaic or solar thermal. Energy storage, for evening power delivery, could be networks of batteries, massive flywheel generators, or pumped water elevated reservoirs for hydro power generation. Costly? Yes enormously so, but so was the Manhattan Project and so is the Iraq war, national ventures not undertaken for profit and thus cost justification. How much of the above could have already been built with the funds spent in Iraq? Some people advocate nuclear power, but I would encourage solar as being risk-free. One exciting company in my city of San Jose, Nanosolar http://www.nanosolar.com/ seems to have developed solar photovoltaic panels at 1/10 the existing cost. They can print them off like sheets of a newspaper.

  • mark reynolds 08/18/08 8:24 PM

    One interesting emerging EV contender is the Chinese and their unstoppable manufacturing base. Google the ?Miles EV? and ?Thunder Sky?  Lithium battery (which can replace the suppressed NiMH battery. Google ?95 AH Large Format NiMH battery? to see that a 30 million dollar lawsuit dismantled the Panasonic plant that built these batteries that gave the Toyota Rav4 EV more than 100 miles of highway speed range- 10 years ago). The Chinese don?t have any obligations to any western business or oil cartel. Although they are importing oil at increasing rates, I think they are taking steps to limit dependency on oil by mass producing EVs. A $4000 Lithium powered highway speed scooter motorcycle just appeared from China: the ?XM-3500Li? You can buy it now online.