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A solar panel on every building

Claiming to be the first solar manufacturer capable of profitably selling solar panels that generate at as little as $0.99/W, Nanosolar has shipped its initial product after 5 years of development.

By John F. Mason, Contributing Editor -- Electronic Business, 1/21/2008

After 5 years of product development, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Nanosolar Inc has shipped its first product. The lucky winner was a local power plant installation in Eastern Germany -- lucky because the company’s products are sold out till 2009.

Nanosolar’s products boast an impressive list of the world’s firsts. R. Martin Roscheisen, the company’s CEO, recently announced the first printed thin-film solar cell in a commercial panel product, the Nanosolar Utility Panel; the first thin-film solar cell with a low-cost back-contact capability; the lowest-cost solar panel, which would make Nanosolar the first solar manufacturer capable of profitably selling solar panels that generate at as little as $0.99/W; and the highest-current thin-film solar panel, delivering 5 times the current of any other thin-film panel on the market.

One of the commercial panels will remain at Nanosolar for exhibit; another will go to the Tech Museum in San Jose; and a third was to be auctioned off on eBay, “which dropped the auction when they learned we planned to give the proceeds to charity,” Roscheisen said.
In April, Nanosolar broke the news that it had spent $100 million to build a plant to produce sheets of solar cells equipped with an absorber 100 times thinner than that needed for a silicon wafer cell that would deliver a similar performance and the durability of a cell. Its sheets, which were cost-efficient for widespread deployment, could be mass-produced on a global scale and would be available in many versatile forms. They were bendable and designed to be durable for decades. The technology is based on the economics of printing non-vacuum/solution-coated material.

The Department of Energy recently boosted the company’s funds and prestige by choosing it for the high-profile Solar America Initiative along with SunPower, First Solar, and General Electric.

“Following its sale to Germany, Nanosolar has a credible path toward shipping $10 billion worth of high-ops-margin products to commercial customers with a simple and predictable sales model,” said Roscheisen (pictured). “Even if we make this goal, the company would still only have a single-digit market-penetration percentage. So there will be attractive returns for long-term investors of all types and sizes. We are also sold out until 2009.”

Nanosolar maintains a worldwide network of partners for development, manufacturing, and distribution. In August 2006, Nanosolar and the Conergy Group in Hamburg, Germany, signed a long-term agreement to develop large-scale photovoltaic systems with a proprietary design to tightly interconnect its panels on a variety of surfaces. Conergy's knowledge and expertise in the development and integration of state-of-the-art components and Nanosolar's experience in the design of solar cells and panels based on thin-film device technology will make Nanosolar’s dream come true: “a solar panel on every building.”

On December 18, 2007, Nanosolar and Germany’s Beck Energy, an integrator of large-scale solar power systems, announced having won a highly competitive public selection process for a solar power plant owned by one of the largest waste management companies in Eastern Germany.
The project will employ the Nanosolar Utility Panel in combination with systems technology and services from Beck Energy. The initial size of the plant is 1 million watts, an amount sufficient to power approximately 400 homes. The Nanosolar Utility Panel is Nanosolar's first product as part of its award-winning PowerSheet product line and the company's solution for building solar power plants at the outskirts of urban centers. 

“This is the first time that a solar electricity cell and panel have been designed entirely and specifically for utility-scale power generation," Roscheisen said. "It will set the standard for green power generation at utility scale.”
Solar-electric power plants have advantages over solar-thermal plants, coal-fired, and other conventional plants, as they are more economical and can be built in a variety of sizes and fit into places not intended for energy-producing plants, Nanosolar boasts.

The company is preparing to offer solar electricity products to volume business customers including the Nanosolar PowerSheet, a A-100 cell technology delivered in an industry-standard package that ensures premium lifetime and full compatibility with existing mounting and installation practices; Nanosolar SolarPly, its flagship building-integrated product that acts as a solar-electric “carpet” for integration with commercial roofing membranes; and Nanosolar Utiliscale, a product specifically designed for large-scale, ground-mounted plant installations.

The United States is number 1 in the world's potential for solar growth. With a newly installed total power of around 105 megawatts in 2005, the US market constitutes the 3rd largest for photovoltaics. Around 75% of these systems have been installed in California. According to a number of studies, the US photovoltaics market will grow to an annual installed capacity of between 300 to 400 megawatt peak by 2010. Conergy, through its partnership with Nanosolar, intends to substantially expand in North America.

In Europe, Conergy is ahead of the game. With an expected revenue of more than $1.13 billion (800 million euros) in 2007 and 1,300 employees, Conergy is the largest solar company in Europe, and is also an international supplier for wind and bioenergy companies. Conergy has branches on 5 continents with plans to expand into North and South America, the Mediterranean, Asia, and Australia.

In the US, Conergy distributes solar products to its branches from Santa Fe, N.M. From its affiliate SunTechnics Energy Systems Inc in Sacramento, Calif., it sells and installs renewable energy systems; and via Voltwerk LLC in New York it develops and finances large solar, wind, and bioenergy projects.


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