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Solar Power Breakthrough - the third wave is here  

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Nanosolar is leading the “Third Wave” of solar power technology:

The First Wave started with the introduction of silicon-wafer based solar cells over three decades ago. While ground-breaking, it is visible until today that this technology came out of a market environment with little concern for cost, capital efficiency, and the product cost / performance ratio.

Despite continued incremental improvements, silicon-wafer cells have a built-in disadvantage of fundamentally high materials cost and poor capital efficiency. Because silicon does not absorb light very strongly, silicon wafer cells have to be very thick. And because wafers are fragile, their intricate handling complicates processing all the way up to the panel product.

The Second Wave came about a decade ago with the arrival of the first commercial "thin-film" solar cells. This established that new solar cells based on a stack of layers 100 times thinner than silicon wafers can make a solar cell that is just as good. However, the first thin-film approaches were handicapped by two issues:
  1. The cell's semiconductor was deposited using slow and expensive high-vacuum based processes because it was not known how to employ much simpler and higher-yield printing processes (and how to develop the required semiconductor ink).
  2. The thin films were deposited directly onto glass as a substrate, eliminating the opportunity of
  • using a conductive substrate directly as electrode (and thus avoiding bottom-electrode deposition cost),
  • achieving a low-cost top electrode of high performance,
  • employing the yield and performance advantages of individual cell matching & sorting,
  • employing high-yield continuous roll-to-roll processing, and
  • developing high-power high-current panels with lower balance-of-system cost.

The Third Wave of solar power consists of companies addressing the above shortcomings and opportunities. Most every of the new companies address one or the other of the above aspects. One company -- Nanosolar -- brings together the entire conjunction of all seven areas of innovation, each break-through in their own right, to deliver a dramatic improvement in the cost-efficiency, yield, and throughput of the production of much thinner solar cells.



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Source: Nanosolar