Nanosolar, maker of thin-film CIGS solar cells, is predicting that it will hit full grid parity by 2015. Grid parity means that the electricity provided by Nanosolar will be cheap as grid supplied power, without the need for tax breaks. In 2006, Nanosolar received a $42 million grant from the Bush Administration as part of the Department of Energy’s push to “make solar energy cost competitive” with fossil fuels by 2015. As part of that grant, the companies involved had to demonstrate that they were meeting milestones on the way to grid parity, and earlier this month the DoE certified that Nanosolar has passed its latest round of milestones.
Nanosolar makes a unique thin film solar cell using inks made from nanoscale particles where the inks are applied to a thin flexible substrate using a roll-to-roll process that’s very similar to low cost printing techniques.
One of the larger projects that Nanosolar has worked on was their installation of a thin-film array for Camp Perry where the Ohio National Guard is located. In this 538 Kw project, Nanosolar focused on reducing the cost of installation. They developed an installation system that consisted of assembling the solar panels into cartridges, which were then fitted into prepared “piers”. Nanosolar was able to demonstrate reduced installation costs, plus they showed that their method greatly reduced the risk of breakage of the panels, which tends to drive costs up when using conventional inflexible silicon based solar panels.
Nanosolar is currently working on installing a larger (1 MW) system at the California National Guard’s Camp Roberts. Their goal for this project is to achieve a total installed cost that is less than what the National Guard is currently paying for grid electricity.