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Nanosolar touts 1 gigawatt solar cell machine

Nanosolar's production machine can turn out 100 feet of cells per minute, making it more cost-effective than existing manufacturing techniques, the company claims.

Upstart Nanosolar says that it has built the Ferrari of solar cell manufacturing: a one gigawatt machine that prints solar cells at 100 feet per minute.

In the company blog, CEO Martin Roscheisen on Wednesday said that the one gigawatt machine is a first for the solar industry, orders of magnitude more "capital efficient" than existing production techniques.

Nanosolar is one of several companies betting on CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide) to lower the price of solar electricity. Compared to traditional silicon, CIGS cells don't require nearly as much material.

Roscheisen said that the secret to Nanosolar technology is that cells are literally printed from a liquid. From his blog:

"Most production tools in the solar industry tend to have 10-30MW in 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 invested so many years developing. It allows us to deliver efficient solar cells (presently up to more than 14 percent) that are simply printed," he wrote.

Nanosolar started manufacturing late last year and said that its first cells were destined for a solar park in eastern Germany.

Speed, as well as cell efficiency, are the name of the game when it comes to being competitive.Traditional CIGS manufacturing processes are done in vacuum chambers and are slower.

Companies like Nanosolar, Miasole, HelioVolt--and now IBM--are developing processes more cost-effective manufacturing techniques to undercut existing technologies.