Renewable energy technologies will never get off the ground until they become cheaper than fossil fuels. Today, Nanosolar CEO Martin Roscheisen says his startup took a step in that direction by shipping its first thin-film solar panel after five years of development. In a blog post, Roscheisen claims his company has produced “the world’s lowest-cost solar panel – which we believe will make us the first solar manufacturer capable of profitably selling solar panels at as little as $.99/Watt.” That would put energy systems made with Nanosolar panels within striking range of the price of coal, which is around $2.10 per watt for new coal plants. The way Nanosolar is lowering its cost is through a new manufacturing process. Instead of making solar panels out of silicon in $3 billion chip factories, it has developed a thin-film process that is more like roll-to-roll printing.
But note that Roscheisen says he “believes” Nanosolar is “capable” of making solar panels so cheaply, not that he has actually done so. Those prices will only come with high-volume manufacturing, and Nanosolar still needs to scale up. But at least it is on its way. Nanosolar says it is sold out of its initial manufacturing run. In the meantime, you can bid on Panel #2 on eBay. (The current bid is $810).
Nanosolar boasts an all-star list of investors, including Benchmark Capital, Mohr Davidow Ventures, Swiss Re, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Jeff Skoll, and Reid Hoffman. It has raised a total of $112 million.