Blog Post

Nanosolar Promises "Fabulous" Residential Solar

In a recent post on the company blog, Nanosolar CEO Martin Roscheisen hinted at “near-term” plans for residential solar from the thin-film startup (hat tip to CNET):

To all those of you who are disappointed that our first product is not for residential homeowners, we can reassure you that we do have a fabulous residential solution on our near-term roadmap — one that will bring the utility scale economics of Nanosolar Utility Panel technology to homes everywhere and completely redefine how residential solar is done.

At what they say would be $1 a watt, we’d love to see Nanosolar pass those savings along to residential customers. However, in the residential solar game the upstream costs are just part of the story. Half the cost of solar on your home’s roof is for the low-tech process of sizing and installing the system.

Also, space, and therefore panel efficiency, is at a premium. Nanosolar says its CIGS cells can operate at 10 percent efficiency, while the current polysilicon panels can do around double that. So while we’re excited about any “fabulous” developments in solar, there are plenty of obstacles between thin-film solar and your neighbor’s roof.

Nanosolar’s most recent financing, $50 million from French power company EDF Energies Nouvelles, came with an agreement for EDF to buy Nanosolar panels starting in 2009. EDF would likely focus more on large scale commercial or even utility deployments.

Installer companies like Sungevity are using satellite imaging to speed up the assessment process while SolarCity is innovating on the financial side by offering an attractive $0 down lease program. Nanosolar’s installation partners would have to leverage methods like these, and make thin-film rooftop installation priced low enough so that the cost advantage of cheap thin film cells isn’t lost.

However, the big hope for thin-film solar in residential applications is in building integrated photovoltaic. If Nanosolar can incorporate their cells into roofing shingles, building siding and windows that truly would be a “fabulous residential solution.”

Oh, and if you’re an anxious utility executive reading this and are worried that municipal power will put you out of business while PG&E outflanks you by buying up those solar thermal plants in the Mojave, Roscheisen invites you on a solar Euro trip fact finding mission to Germany, land of bratwurst and feed-in tariffs.

7 Responses to “Nanosolar Promises "Fabulous" Residential Solar”

  1. This seems like a great project from Nanosolar, I thing they already implemented some of the solar panels and they are already providing electric energy for a few thousands houses. So it’s great!

  2. If Nanosolar can sell the solar panels at retail prices of $1-$2/watt for residential applications, I would install most of it myself without having to apply for rebates.

    I hope Nanosolar builds modular panels that can be assembled like legos, that there should be no need for rocket science when you join them together as you anchor them on the roof.

    What you need are basic carpentry skills. There are many excellent websites showing how to install solar panels on curved tile roof for example. The physical installation of the panels is the one that is time consuming. I have seen how some panels are easily wired together that there is no way you will make a mistake of inverting or mis-wiring them because they only fit one way.

    You can then connect the panel unto an inverter. But when it comes to connecting the system to be grid-tied and having another circuit breaker in your main panel, you hire a licensed electrician to do that. Fortunately, that part of the job takes less than a day, and you don’t mess with the major house circuit when you can pay the electrician between $240-$360 for that connection. That would be the hardest part. The rest are carpentry skills and manual labor and you can pay somebody $120/day to assist you. A good sized 4 kW panel should take about 2 to 3 days to install. The total installation cost with you as the main installer and subcontracting the main circuit, should cost between $700-$1,000.

    Typically, today’s solar installers in cahoots with the solar manufacturers would charge $7-$9/watt before rebates. There is no way that you can make it financially viable because the interest rate on the $7 will be much more than the value of the electricity produced by the 1 watt panel.

    The break even point is between $2-$2.50/watt after rebates. If Nanosolar and their installers will charge about like that, then I’ll immediately sign up for 10 kW system. And if the solar PV panels come down to about $1-$2/watt for residential, I’d be installing them without applying for rebates.