Nanosolar has announced plans to build the world's largest solar cell production plant in California near San Jose. The goal is to produce 200 millions of solar cells per year or a cumulative power of 430 megawatts that could power 300.000 homes.
Although silicon cells currently dominate almost the entire photovoltaic market, Nanosolar has chosen the Indium Selenium Copper (CIS) technology for its solar cells. This technology has several advantages over conventional silicon cells. First, it eliminates the shortage of silicon that currently affects the photovoltaic industry. Secondly, it is a thin film technology that requires only a few micro-m of active layers against several hundred for a crystalline silicon cell. Finally the cell can be built on a flexible substrate. This opens the door to the manufacture of shaped panels adapted to their use.
The progress made in recent years allows CIS cells to approach the yields achieved by polycrystalline silicon cells (around 12% yield). Nanosolar claims to have developed a manufacturing process that significantly reduces the production costs of CIS cells, a factor that has hitherto hampered the commercial development of these cells. Behind the company we find Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google. Feeling that the solar is now on the rise, they decided to invest heavily for the development of Nanosolar. Distanced by Japan and Germany in the race to produce solar panels and increasingly concerned about their energy situation, the United States seems to be reacting and this project is an example as the recent incentive for solar in California. It is also an opportunity to strengthen its position in an exponentially growing renewable energy market whose value is already worth 40 billion and could reach 170 billion in 2015.