By Martin Roscheisen, CEO As we are busy ramping our operation, we want to recognize achieving a major milestone in solar technology: The solar industry’s first 1 gigawatt (GW) production tool. Here it is
Most production tools in the solar industry tend to have a 10-30 megawatt (MW) annual production capacity. How is it possible to have a single tool with gigawatt throughput?
This feat is fundamentally enabled through the proprietary nanoparticle ink we have spent so many years developing. It allows us to deliver efficient solar cells (presently up to more than 14%) that are simply printed.
Printing is a simple, fast, and robust coating process that eliminates the need for expensive high-vacuum chambers and the kinds of high-vacuum based deposition techniques sometimes used in industries where there are a lot more $/sqm available for competitive manufacturing cost.
Our 1GW CIGS coater cost $1.65 million. At the 100 feet-per-minute speed shown in the video, that’s an astonishing two orders of magnitude more capital efficient than a high-vacuum process: a twenty times slower high-vacuum tool would have cost about ten times as much.
Plus if we cared to run it even faster, we could. (The same coating technique works in principle for speeds up to 2000 feet-per-minute too. In fact, it turns out the faster we run, the better the coating!)
This exemplifies how much faster the Nanosolar single sided deposition method capable of 1GW/yr is compared to ENER's CVD process which is incredibly tedious, requiring higher vacuum, higher temperatures and three junctions. For ITO coatings, ENER uses CVD, but a wet-process or sputtering may be used by CIGS producers to accomodate the far higher throuput rate.
Don't forget that Uni-Solar is working on its own faster deposition process, that is, plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition. And don't forget that the Uni-Solar amorphous-nanocrystalline next-generation solar product will have a conversion-efficiency comparable to, if not higher than, the Nanosolar CIGS product. And finally, don't forget that Nanosolar's CIGS product, unlike the Uni-Solar product, needs alot of costly, and by no means proven, moisture protection. So Nanosolar may very well not be a long-term winner in the solar industry.