Nanosolar, a heavily financed Silicon Valley start-up whose backers include Google’s co-founders, plans to announce Tuesday that it has begun selling its innovative solar panels, which are made using a technique that is being held out as the future of solar power manufacturing.
That new technique involves using a device very much like an ink-jet printer to lay down the components of a photovoltaic cell onto a thin sheet of aluminum. The cells are much thinner, lighter, and much less fragile than older silicon cells. The result is solar energy that is expected to cost around $1 a watt for the raw panels, and $2 a watt for an installed system. At that price, solar power is directly competitive with the cheapest and most polluting of fossil fuels.
According to the Energy Department, building a new coal plant costs about $2.1 a watt, plus the cost of fuel and emissions, he said.
The process developed by Nanosolar not only allows them to produce cheap solar panels, it allows them to create them much faster than the more delicate panels produced in the past. Even so, their first 12 months of production is already sold out.
If you want a shot at one of their first panels, you'll have to bid for it on Ebay. But be warned -- that one will cost a lot more than $1.