Nanosolar: Thin is In for Renewable Energy

By Holy Solar

Enough sunlight falls on the Earth in two hours to support all of civilization’s power needs for an entire year. This compelling statistic ought to have mobs unplugging from the grid and off to the solar store for some PV modules and wires. When we see how energy is free, that it literally falls from the sky and all we have to do is collect it, why should we live under the whim of a heartless energy monopoly, in dread of their threatening pink notices?

At some level, however, we all know that unless the grid itself is powered by renewable energy, the economic, social, and environmental plague of fossil fuels and nuclear power will go on to pollute the world regardless of how tiny our individual footprints may be.

So the best news, lately, has been about the solar we can’t have: industrial-strength adaptations for large-scale solar power that are beginning to answer some of the shortcomings of our favorite energy source. Traditional mono-and-polycrystalline panels are a technological wonder, but mass-producing them presents some economic and environmental problems of their own. Many people worry about the long “energy debt” these panels have, often three to five years before the energy to manufacture such panels is recovered.

The focus in solar equipment manufacture has shifted from the watt to the megawatt, and the entire premise of solar collection is rapidly evolving. Since solar panels obviously need to cover the maximum surface area, engineers have been hard at work on that third dimension, reducing the thickness of each module.

They haven’t stopped there. A company called Nanosolar is now producing solar cells so thin that they are literally painted on, collecting charge by means of a special ink. Want some? You can’t have any; despite enormous investments from giants like IBM and Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as well as reports that the company’s new plants have the ability to produce 1 billion watts to wholesale at about $1 a piece, Nanosolar says it is sold out for at least a year in advance. Try again in 2009.

Boasting an impressive 14.5% efficiency and the lowest cost yet for photovoltaic cells, we can’t wait until this technology makes it to the consumer level. Unfortunately, since the technology is patented and proprietary, and Nanosolar shows no interest in the residential sector, it will be some time before microsolar makes its way to the open market.

Nanosolar has been awarded the Green Leap Award from Holy Solar for innovative advancement in the approach to alternative energy.

Until then, we’ll have to get by with the next-best thing, solar cells which are merely thin, available from Global Solar and UniSolar. See these thin-film solar cells available from Real Goods.

Nanosolar Thin Film Production-100 ft per minute Solar Printing Capacity


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Topics: Alternative Energy News, Green Technology, Solar Power, Sustainable Energy | 8 Comments »

8 Responses to “Nanosolar: Thin is In for Renewable Energy”

  1. Warthog
    5:17 am on July 25th, 2008

    “…and Nanosolar shows no interest in the residential sector, it will be some time before microsolar makes its way to the open market.”

    Not true. The Nanosolar head honcho has said specifically that Nanosolar intends to sell into the residential sector, with their SECOND plant. They are targeting the utility scale market FIRST, not exclusively.

  2. George
    11:37 pm on July 28th, 2008

    It’s exciting how it is finally becoming financially feasable for the average family to convert to solar energy.

  3. Holy Solar
    1:29 pm on August 6th, 2008

    Warthog, you’re talking about a plant which hasn’t even been constructed yet, right? Okay, perhaps the top folks at Nanosolar really are in to the idea of offering residential microfilm someday. They make no serious mention of it on their site, and whether or not they intend to supply the residential sector at some undefined point in the future, the statement stands.

  4. Morgan Mghee
    12:58 am on September 9th, 2008

    Nanosolar is for real, I’ve been waiting for them to go public, but I don’t think that will happen until the public funding flips from Oil to AE. That’s what made oil what it is today, and what it will take to get AE there.

    Nanosolar is doing much of their work outside the country, where the incentives and public support are far outpacing America.

  5. nanosolar
    10:40 am on September 11th, 2008

    solar cells so thin that they are literally painted on, collecting charge by means of a special ink!
    San Jose: Hub for a green-tech gold rush?

  6. duerobettable
    6:00 am on September 23rd, 2008

    How may I contact the administrator of this site? I have a question.

  7. DiptIntig
    10:38 am on September 24th, 2008

    How exciting! I can’t wait until these are made available in the private sector. How long until we can just print our own solar cells at home?

  8. Holy Solar
    8:39 pm on September 24th, 2008

    We read and respond to all questions and comments left here. You can also contact us directly through the “Suggestions & Feedback” page for specific questions.

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