Advanced Solar Panels Coming to Market
By Kevin Bullis on September 17, 2009
A promising type of solar-power technology has moved a step closer to mass production. Nanosolar, based in San Jose, CA, has opened an automated facility for manufacturing its solar panels, which are made by printing a semiconductor material called CIGS on aluminum foil. The manufacturing facility is located in Germany, where government incentives have created a large market for solar panels. Nanosolar has the potential to make 640 megawatts' worth of solar panels there every year.
Solar cells made of the CIGS semiconductor, which is composed of copper, indium, gallium, and selenium, have long been considered a potential challenger to conventional solar cells made of silicon. At least in the lab, CIGS cells have reached efficiencies comparable to silicon-based solar cells. And in theory, they could be made using inexpensive printing processes, leading to much less expensive solar power. But developing manufacturing processes that maintain the high efficiencies has proven difficult.
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