Nanosolar 2.0: New Attitude and New Deals for Up to 1 GW of Solar Panels  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

Greentech Media has an update on progress at thin film solar company Nanosolar - Nanosolar 2.0: New Attitude and New Deals for Up to 1 GW of Solar Panels.

Nanosolar, the CIGS (CuInGaSe) solar module aspirant, has been cutting a lower profile compared to its brash early years.

The 300-employee, San Jose, California-based firm has reset its management team with a focus on operations and seems to be making some progress on the technical and commercial fronts.

As one of the first wave of capital-intensive, VC-funded, next-generation thin-film solar companies, the company raised a lot of cash (more than $400 million in private equity) but was prone to over-promising and under-delivering. Faced with an economic slowdown, a precipitous decline in global module pricing, a bit of boardroom carnage that brought in a new CEO (Geoff Tate, formerly of Rambus and AMD) -- the firm stayed relatively quiet in 2010 and regrouped. (Tom Cheyney of PV-Tech did get an audience with the firm in their most notable press account of 2010.)

The new CEO told me, "We've made huge progress; we've grafted an operations process onto the company."

Nanosolar has re-emerged in its 2011 incarnation, presumably a bit humbled, but set on having 115 megawatts of capacity online by the end of the year. What bluster remains in the company comes in the form of an ambitious cost and efficiency roadmap with these goals:

* Below $1.00 per watt factory cost by the end of this year
* Low $0.80s or high $0.70s per watt by late next year
* In the $0.60s in 2013
* Below $0.60 per watt in 2014

Our analyst team estimates their current cost in the $1.35 per watt range. Tate suggested that cost reduction will come from improved sourcing, ramping yields, growing volume to spread the overhead across more units, and optimizing the recipe.

Nanosolar produced 2.5 megawatts of panels last year. This year they'll ship "double digit" megawatts and "triple digits" in 2012, according to the CEO. Cell production capacity will be 115 megawatts by the end of 2011 and the next step jumps the firm to 250 megawatts of cell capacity in San Jose. Panel assembly is performed at their factory in Luckenwalde, Germany.

The firm is shipping 10 percent efficiency panels today with a target of 12 percent efficiency next year. Expectations are for 13 percent in 2013 and 14 percent in 2014. Tate joked that he'd like to keep the trend going to 99 percent efficiency in 2099. In any case, a 4 percentage point increase in efficiency in four years would be unprecedented by any solar firm.

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