In a potentially world changing effort a Palo Alto company called Nanosolar has developed paper thin solar cells. Currently Nanosolar is looking at three potential California based locations to build a factory to produce these paper-thin solar cells.
Currently the total production of solar cells in the United States will only produce slightly over one hundred and fifty megawatts of power. In comparison the new Nanosolar plant alone will be able to produce close to three times that amount.
This is a huge leap forward for solar technology in a couple of important ways. The first is that the founders of Google funded Nanosolar. This type of availability of capital and worldwide exposure will greatly help Nanosolar gear up rapidly.
The second key factor is that Nanosolar solar cells are built differently then current solar cells. The majority of current solar cells contain silicon crystals. When sunlight hits the cells the electrons in the crystals are excited and energy is produced. This process is very expensive and the demand for the silicon crystals far exceeds the supply, which further increases prices. For example the growth rate of solar cell usage increased over fifty percent between 2004 and 2005. This expenditure on solar cells is predicted to increase to over fifty one billion dollars by the year 2015.
So how does Nanosolar solve this problem? By producing a solar cell based on a copper alloy versus silicon crystals. This copper alloy is one-fifth the price of silicon crystals. The flexibility of the alloy also allows for cells to be mass-produced in sheets. These paper-thin sheets can then be cut and used for individual applications. The U.S. Army is experimenting with this product to help power certain field equipment such as radios and field phone systems.
When the new plant is finished it will be the largest solar cell producing plant in the world. Both investors, and environmentalists are excited about the huge positive impact this technology could have on the world. In the not to distant future you will literally be able to wear your laptop power supply. Not only does this technology make sense from a financial standpoint but it can also be the catalyst, which will make solar power attractive and affordable for the masses.
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