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Nanosolar to move into production this year

The company hopes to bring its manufacturing facility online this year and start shipping CIGS products before the calendar turns to 2008.

Nanosolar, one of the several companies trying to popularize CIGS solar panels, says it will move into commercial production later this year, and it's already booked the first 12 months of production.

The company hopes to inaugurate its manufacturing facility later this year and start shipping products before the calendar turns to 2008, according to CEO Martin Roscheisen.

"November and the first part of December are going to be extremely busy," Roscheisen said in a phone interview. Technically, Nanosolar is five days behind its own internal schedule, he said.

Nanosolar Cell Foil
Nanosolar's flexible Cell Foil product. Nanosolar

Even if production slips a bit, 2008 is looking up. The entire year of production has already been allocated to customers who have placed advance orders. The first 100,000 panels will go to a small number of commercial solar installations.

Roscheisen would not say exactly how many panels the company will make in 2008, but allowed that the 100,000 panels represent "a fraction" of the total output for the year. Back in 2006, Nanosolar said its first factory would be capable of churning out 430 megawatts worth of panels a year. The company will sell its product through wholesalers.

Meanwhile, the Department of Energy has awarded the company a $20 million, three-year development deal. The company will get $9.5 million between now and October 2008 and the rest will follow afterward, subject to continued availability of funds.

Nanosolar has already received $100 million in financing. Investors include Mohr Davidow Ventures, Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Since the company's big funding round in 2006, Nanosolar has been aiming to move into commercial production in 2008.

Solar cells based on CIGS--which stands for copper, indium, gallium, selenide--aren't as efficient as silicon solar cells, but they are less expensive to manufacture. CIGS cells can also be printed on rolls of foil. Conceivably, the roof of a Wal-Mart could be coated with a sheet of CIGS cells to turn the entire roof into a giant solar panel.

Although CIGS cells have been made in laboratories, no one has yet to move to commercial production. Rivals such as Miasole and DayStar Technologies have had to delay their products.

CIGS will no doubt be a topic of conversation at Solar Power 2007, taking place this week in Long Beach, California.