SAN JOSE, Calif. A startup originally funded by Google Inc. Wednesday (June 21) announced a $100 million financing package and set plans to build what the company claims as the world's largest solar-cell manufacturing facility in California.
Presently in pilot production in its Palo Alto, Calif.-based facility, the solar-cell startup Nanosolar has started ordering volume production equipment for use in a factory said to have a total annual cell output of 430-megawatts (MW) once fully built out, or approximately 200 million cells per year.
The company's first volume factory will be located in the San Francisco Bay area. Nanosolar (Palo Alto, Calif.) also said that its first panel fab, designed for a broad array of novel product form factors using advanced processes, is expected to be located in Berlin, Germany.
California is positioning itself as one of the largest users of solar energy in the United States. Recently, the California Public Utilities Commission proposed the California Solar Initiative (CSI), the largest solar energy bill in U.S. history. It will establish an 11-year solar rebate program for new and retrofit installations of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, worth $3.2 billion.
Meanwhile, originally funded by the founders of search-engine giant Google (Mountain View, Calif.), the five-year-old startup claims to have developed a proprietary nanoparticle ink and fast roll-printing technology.
It makes several products based on thin-film technology. Nanosolar's A-100 cell technology will be available to the general public in 2007. SolarPly is the company's flagship building-integrated product, which consists of a large-area, solar-electric "carpet" for integration with commercial roofing membranes.
Nanosolar has garnered more than $10 million in government contracts and $48 million in venture capital to develop a cheap roll-to-roll solar cell manufacturing process on which it is collaborating with Lawrence Berkeley and Sandia National Laboratories. Its copper indium gallium diselenide cells use a low-cost substrate that can be processed without the need for vacuum deposition, creating what Nanosolar claims is the world's most cost-efficient solar cell.
"Nanosolar's technology enables low-cost, high-yield production previously unattainable," said Chris Eberspacher, Nanosolar's head of technology, in a statement. "This allows us to produce cells very inexpensively and assemble them into panels that are comparable in efficiency to that of high-volume silicon based PV panels."
To help propel its fab, Nanosolar announced that it has completed a $100 million funding package. As part of the funding, it also announced a Series C Preferred Stock financing in the amount of more than $75 million.
"This will allow us to further expand our leadership position in solar power innovation," said Martin Roscheisen, CEO of Nanosolar, in a statement. "We are looking forward to working with our new investors and partners, who have very successful track records in clean energy, to lead the industry on a path of rapidly more cost-efficient solar electricity."
In addition to participation by the company's existing investors, including venture firms MDV-Mohr Davidow Ventures, Benchmark Capital, Onpoint and Mitsui, new investors include SAC Capital, GLG Partners, Swiss Re, Grazia Equity, Capricorn Management and Beck.
Also participating was the investment arm of Jeff Skoll, the investment arms of SAP founders Klaus Tschira and Dietmar Hopp and Christian Reitberger, the original backer of Q-Cells, the world's largest independent silicon cell PV manufacturer.
Not long ago, solar energy was considered a niche market. Now, solar-cell vendors are scrambling to expand their capacities to meet huge demand from homes and businesses worldwide. Companies that have recently announced new and massive solar-cell production plants include Energy Conversion Devices, Evergreen Solar, Sharp, SunPower and Suntech.
Solar is here today, but at about three times the cost of conventionally generated electricity However, thanks to advances in thin-flim technologies, some believe that the cost of solar will be on par with that of conventional electricity within 10 years.