Some five years after its founding, and a year and a half after announcing a huge solar cell factory in the Bay Area, Nanosolar has become one of the very first companies to begin commercially selling thin-film solar cells.
Nanosolar’s cells use an “ink” thin enough to be painted onto a flexible backing. The company isn’t alone in making these CIGS cells, so-called because of the conductor compound they use (copper, indium, gallium, diselenide). However, it may have one of the cheapest ways of making them.
Much of the excitement over Nanosolar is because of the price for the cells — which the company says is as low as 99 cents per watt, low enough to be competitive with traditional energy sources. While plenty of other companies have claimed to be able to manufacture for similarly low prices, they’re not actually producing cells yet.
Nanosolar’s first commercial client is Beck Energy, which will build a one-megawatt installation in East Germany, near the company’s other factory.
Although a single megawatt isn’t much — only about enough to power 400 homes — most solar installations so far have been small. For example, an 8.22 megawatt installation just completed by SunEdison in Colorado will be one of the largest.
However, Nanosolar’s factories have the capacity to pump out well over 100 megawatts of cells each year. The company may just be proving that solar power is ready to enter the big-time.