Makers of a new kind of solar power cell have chosen San Jose
site of their first large-scale factory in America.
Nanosolar Inc. will occupy a former Cisco Systems facility in
Jose, converting it into a manufacturing plant for "thin-film"
cells, which are produced in narrow flexible sheets. The company,
Palo Alto, also will open a factory in Germany, the world's
for solar technology.
The $102 million plant on San Jose's Hellyer Avenue will
solar cells each year to generate 400 megawatts of electricity,
enough to light 300,000 homes. The facility will be ready for
production next year.
The move further strengthens Silicon Valley's position as a
research into renewable energy. A cheaper, more efficient solar
become a kind of holy grail for a small army of local engineers,
entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.
"Silicon Valley has no birthright to be a leader in solar
power, but we
can earn it," said Martin Roscheisen, Nanosolar's chief executive
"The capability is there. The talent is there."
Founded in 2002, Nanosolar seeks to drastically reduce the
solar cells by getting rid of traditional materials and
Unlike the standard solar cell, Nanosolar's don't use
a blend of metals including copper and gallium is placed on metal
a process much like printing. The solar film is 100 times thinner
silicon wafer but can produce roughly the same amount of energy,
Companies have experimented with thin-film solar cells for
have had trouble finding a cheap way to mass-produce them.
"This is still a market in its infancy," said Joel Makower,
of Clean Edge, a research firm that follows renewable energy. "The
question is how quickly can Nanosolar, or anybody else, get up to
Nanosolar, he said, also will have to prove that its
Standard silicon-based solar cells have been sitting on rooftops
decades, enduring blistering heat and freezing cold. They often
than 20 years.
Nanosolar chose to locate in the Bay Area to tap the local
highly trained workers. The factory is expected to employ 200 to
San Jose beat out other Bay Area cities, including San
wanted the facility.
The company, which didn't want to build a plant from
scratch, needed a
specific kind of building -- one with 20-foot ceilings to
machinery and enough electricity to run them. San Jose also
handle any of the company's permit applications quickly. Although
Francisco made similar offers, Roscheisen said San Jose had more
experience accommodating fast-growing companies.
"The difference is, it's kind of routine for San Jose to do
things, and it's exceptional in San Francisco," he said.
This article appeared on page D - 1
San Francisco Chronicle