Alternate energy sources have not been able to compete with fossil fuels in terms of cost. With a constantly increasing demand for energy resources, we need to look at renewable energy resources. Some companies are already stepping up to the plate in terms of making a difference. The Bank of America tower in NY is now the world’s most environmentally sound skyscraper. Virgin group’s CEO Richard Branson has dedicated three billion dollars in renewable energy initiatives, to take place over the next ten years. Companies like this are pioneers.
Another pioneer is Nanosolar, whose mission is to place a solar panel on every building’. San Francisco Chronicle reported in December, Nanosolar’s manufacturing plant will be based in San Jose, California.
The $102 million plant on San Jose’s Hellyer Avenue will make enough solar cells each year to generate 400 megawatts of electricity, roughly enough to light 300,000 homes. The facility will be ready for commercial production next year.
The standard solar cell uses silicon, but Nanosolar uses a blend of metals such as copper and gallium which is then placed on metal foil in a process similar to the printing process, resulting in a film 100 times thinner than a silicon wafer. The amount of energy produced is about the same. Experiments in thin-film solar is not new, but until now no one has found a way to mass produce them. To have a look at the process check out this Google Video on Nanosolar.
Leveraging recent science advances in nanostructured materials, Nanosolar has developed proprietary high-yield high-throughput thin-film process technology based on the economics of printing (non-vacuum / solution coating). For the first time, this makes it possible to simply print solar cells that are efficient and durable, and fundamentally change the cost efficiency and volume availability of solar electricity.
Nanosolar hopes to become the industry leader in solar energy technology, producing clean, affordable, and reliable energy. In doing so they will have to prove durability of their product, as their counterparts which are known to last more than twenty years. In a market which is just emerging companies need to find a quick way to get up to scale.