Nanosolar Starts Thin-Film Solar Panel Production

Nanosolar CEO Martin Roscheisen tells us this morning that the company has already started production of its thin-film solar panels. The company had set a goal to start production and shipping by the end of this year, and in our post “10 Questions for Nanosolar CEO Martin Roscheisen” back in July, Roscheisen told us: “Yes, we’re on track with this. Do not expect an Apple-style product launch, though.”

Roscheisen tells us that the company has reached that goal with production at its San Jose, Calif., manufacturing facility. We’re not sure to what extent production is being done, but Roscheisen says there will be more info coming soon. The fact that Nanosolar is producing on schedule is a big step for the thin-film solar industry, as many thin-film companies have faced setbacks and delays.

This morning we read this Gunther Portfolio report (hat tip to GreentechMedia) with an update and pictures of a Nanosolar production facility in Luckenwalde, Germany. Of the San Jose and German facilities, Roscheisen tells us:

[The] German panel-assembly factory was always scheduled to start operation one quarter behind our San Jose operation. We have a secondary, semi-automated 24×6 panel-assembly operation up and running in San Jose which is capable to address all of our initial panel-assembly needs until the German factory kicks in. The German operation is geared towards multi-100MW capacity — in fact a total capacity much larger than what our current cell operation is designed for — and in a fully-automated “lights-out” way for maximum cost efficiency.

Founded in 2002, Nanosolar has raised at least $100 million from a long list of venture firms including Benchmark Capital and Mohr Davidow; individual investors such as Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and entrepreneur Jeff Skoll; as well as the Department of Energy.

The company is producing thin-film solar panels made of copper indium gallium selenide; it counts Heliovolt and Miasole among its competitors. Thin-film technology promises to be cheaper than traditional solar technology because it uses little or no silicon, and it can be printed on flexible materials. But there’s a trade-off, as those developing the technology are still struggling to boost its efficiency levels.