Cheap, Efficient Solar Cells You Can Print

If you haven’t noticed yet, I have been recently researching solar technology for a job we are working on at the office.  I came across Nanosolar which has come up with a method of making solar cells cheap and efficient.  The video attached is incredible view into the making of this technology.  Aside from the very bad sound track and verbal description from random employees, its a very well done video. Via:treehugger

For a while, everybody was talking about Nanosolar. They were the Tesla Motors of solar panels, in a way. But for the past year, they’ve kept quiet and this led some people to doubt that the company really would be able to deliver on what it had promised. Was it all hype? Well, Nanosolar has now broken radio silence and the news are good. They’ve simultaneously released information about three things, along with a very cool video (check it out below) that shows what the inside of their factories look like, including the brand new one in Germany.

Nanosolar 640MW Robotic Factory in Germany
The first piece of news from Nanosolar concerns a solar panel factory in Germany with a capacity of 640MW/year. The fully-automated facility is located in Luckenwalde near Berlin, and its inauguration was attended by Germany’s Minister of the Environment and the Governor of the State of Brandenburg, among others.

The 640 megawatts per year number if reached when the factory is operated 24/7 at the rate of 1 solar panel every 10 seconds (!). Nanosolar has also announced that serial production in its San Jose, California, cell production factory commenced earlier this year and that production would be ramping up to meet the $4.1 billion in contracts that they already have.

Here’s a promo video by Nanosolar that shows – among others things – the “continuous flow printing process”, the robotic factory in Germany, and even a jar of the famous nanoparticle solar ink:

Nanosolar Announces Improved Conversion Efficiency
Nanosolar has also announced that it has improved the efficiency of its thin-film printed cells. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has independently verified that the cells can convert 16.4% of solar energy into electricity, which is quite good for Copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) technology.

At 16.4% efficiency, our foil cells represent two world records in one: It’s the most efficient printed solar cell of any kind (all semiconductor and device technologies) as well as the most efficient cell on a truly low-cost metal foil (with a material cost of only a cent or two per square foot and mil thickness).

Correction: The 16.4% figure above is for the best Nanosolar solar cells, not for all of them. The company states that: “In terms of our current baseline production process, our best production rolls now achieve higher than 11% median efficiency measured as equivalent to panel efficiency, with very tight cross- and down-web uniformity.” That’s still very good, but far from 16.4%. Sorry for the confusion.

By comparison, Nanosolar had announced last year that its conversion ratio was 14.5 percent.

Correction: The 16.4% figure above is for the best Nanosolar solar cells, not for all of them. The company states that: “In terms of our current baseline production process, our best production rolls now achieve higher than 11% median efficiency measured as equivalent to panel efficiency, with very tight cross- and down-web uniformity.” That’s still very good, but far from 16.4%. Sorry for the confusion.

By comparison, Nanosolar had announced last year that its conversion ratio was 14.5 percent.

– Electrically, it is the industry’s highest-current thin panel, by as much as a factor of six. It is also the industry’s first photovoltaic module certified by TUV for a system voltage of 1500V, or 50% higher than the previously highest certified. Together this enables utility-scale panel array lengths and results in a host of substantial cost savings during the deployment of solar power plants.

– Mechanically, the package used for the panel is distinctly stronger than that of conventional thin-film-on-glass modules, achieving almost twice the mounting span and thus substantially lower mounting cost.

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