Solar panels at 30 metres a minute


in Economics, Science, The environment

If solar photovoltaic power is going to emerge as a major source of electricity, it will be necessary to start manufacturing solar panels in a far more efficient and economical way. The model needs to shift from how glass was once made (as individual panels) to how it is now made (as a sheet being continuously produced and split at the cool end).

Nanosolar (a company mentioned here before) claims to have a process that will print solar panels onto aluminum backing at a rate of 100 feet per minute. Their hope is to eventually produce panels at a cost of $1 a watt and complete solar systems at $2 a watt – a price lower than that of coal-fired electrical capacity.

This is a goal in keeping with Google’s admirable RE < C project, which aims to displace coal with solar because the latter is cheaper, as well as far more environmentally benign.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Tristan June 21, 2008 at 11:50 pm

I realize you like to blog about these climate change issues, but I think today’s 7-0 overturning by the national supreme court of a 7-0 ruling in the Quebec supreme court deserves some attention. A huge victory for the status quo, a huge legal rift between Ottawa and Quebec, and the possibility for public discourse about what a cooperation should be.

Jack Tenn June 22, 2008 at 3:45 am

I don’t know how to translate you surname into Chinese,so I search on the Internet,and then find you blog.
And you give a link that tells how to pronounce it.
I really appreciate it.

Finally, I find that your blod updates everyday.
The issues you concern are various,so I envy you a little.
I don’t have so much time to do what I like.

Milan June 22, 2008 at 3:58 am


I know nothing of this. Write your own post and I will link it.

. June 23, 2008 at 3:17 pm

Entreprenews you can use: Sungevity
‘Dell of solar’ seeks to make it cheap and user-friendly to get rooftop PV
Posted by David Roberts at 1:19 PM on 23 Jun 2008

. June 23, 2008 at 3:18 pm

“There’s so much money being spent on the hardware and technology end of the business,” says Sungevity CXO and president Danny Kennedy, “and yet 50 percent of the cost the customer pays — which is the only price that matters — is downstream of the factory gates. Even if a Nanosolar panel came out and it was free, it would still cost $5/watt to get it up on a roof.” While press and investor attention largely focus on whizbang new generation technologies like modular CSP, nanotubes, and printable films, Sungevity is focused on distribution, installation, and customer service.

Anon June 23, 2008 at 6:02 pm

This could be really excellent for people living in America’s sunny suburbs:

Low-cost, emission free energy to power cars and air conditioners.

Anon June 23, 2008 at 6:03 pm

This sounds like just the thing for people in America’s sunny suburbs:

Cheap, emission-free energy for cars and air conditioners.

What more could an Arizona or Nevada dweller ask for?

. June 7, 2009 at 11:08 pm

Printable, Rollable Solar Panels Could Go Anywhere

“A startup based in Toledo, Ohio, has developed a way to make large, flexible solar panels using a roll-to-roll manufacturing technique. Thin-film amorphous silicon solar cells are formed on thin sheets of stainless steel, and each solar module is about one meter wide and five-and-a-half meters long. Conventional silicon solar panels are bulky and rigid, but these lightweight, flexible sheets could easily be integrated into roofs and building facades.”

. September 23, 2009 at 4:23 pm

“The sample panels I was shown were smaller than the notebook page on which I sketched my description of them, and if all goes according to plan I will never see them mounted on great metal braces that protrude from a wide building’s flat top or fill some sunny field end to end. Instead, they will essentially be printed onto sheets of steel as they roll along an assembly line at three to five metres per second. A company called Corus (formerly British Steel) in faraway Wales has already begun converting a production line used to manufacture its ColorCoat steel roofing. It produces 100 million square metres of the stuff each year — enough to re-roof every Walmart in North America — and as of 2012 it intends to start selling industrial quantities of its roofing with Dyesol’s solar cells built right into it.”

. January 8, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Shining a light
Solar cells are getting cheaper as subsidies subside

THE future, according to MiaSolé, a Californian start-up, is unrolling at one centimetre a second in a bland-looking building in Silicon Valley. Despite the location, and the fact that most other solar cells are made from silicon, MiaSolé’s cells are not. Ribbons of steel a metre wide and half a hair’s width thick spool through vacuum chambers in which they are sputtered with copper, indium, gallium and selenium—collectively known as CIGS. Out of the end comes a new type of solar cell which promises to be both efficient and cheap.

MiaSolé’s current cells turn 10.5% of the light that hits them into electricity. A tweaked version that manages 13% should go into production early next year. Further tweaks have produced cells with an efficiency of 15.7%. This is as good as the best silicon cells and much better than those of First Solar, an American company which uses another cheap technology and is the biggest maker of solar cells in the world. MiaSolé says its manufacturing costs work out at less than $1 per watt of generating capacity. This is better than all silicon-cell-makers and far less than the $3 per watt of Solyndra, a rival CIGS firm that won a large loan guarantee from the American government to build a big factory.

All to the good: the rationale for the industry’s generous subsidies has been that as volumes increase and manufacturers get more experienced, costs will decline. For much of the 2000s, with a shortage of pure silicon and lavish support from European governments, the price of solar panels failed to fall as expected. But since January 2009, according to pvXchange, an online marketplace, the wholesale price of solar modules in Europe has dropped by 43%. This is bad news for high-cost producers. And cheap, efficient thin-film cells like MiaSolé’s will make life harder still. So will a slackening in the growth of demand for solar panels: this year it doubled but demand is likely to grow by just 10% or so in each of the next two years.

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