PALO ALTO, Calif. - Nanosolar Inc. has announced that it will build a solar cell manufacturing facility that will eventually produce enough solar cells in one year to generate 430 MW of power. For comparison, worldwide solar cell production in 2004 was 1,109 MW, with only 138 MW in the United States, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Nanosolar plans to build the world-record-breaking manufacturing plant in the San Francisco Bay area, and has started ordering volume production equipment for the facility. The company currently operates a pilot-scale facility in Palo Alto, Calif., and expects to achieve high production volumes through technology similar to the roll-to-roll printing presses employed by newspapers and other high-volume printers.

Using nanotechnology, the company can spray a thin film of copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) onto an inexpensive foil, and the minute particles - on the scale of a billionth of a meter - will line up with each other, "self assembling" to form a layer of semiconductor. Such semiconductors form the heart of solar cells, allowing them to convert sunlight into electricity. The company uses a similar technology to add a transparent electrode layer on top of the semiconductor.

According to Nanosolar, the planned manufacturing plant would cost $1 billion to build using conventional thin-film solar technologies, but will cost much less using roll-to-roll technology. To support the buildup to production, the company has raised $100 million through a combination of venture firms and a preferred stock offering.

Publication date: 07/17/2006