Popular Science has named the nanosolar powersheet the “Best of What’s New 2007,” and for good reason. Instead of using big glass frames to generate electricity at an average cost of $3 per watt, this flexible stuff can be shipped in rolls and costs 30 cents per watt. Their secret? Photovoltaic ink. It’s like printer toner that turns light into energy. Finally, solar power is cheaper and easier than oil- or coal-driven power plants:
The company produces its PowerSheet solar cells with printing-press-style machines that set down a layer of solar-absorbing nano-ink onto metal sheets as thin as aluminum foil, so the panels can be made for about a tenth of what current panels cost and at a rate of several hundred feet per minute. With backing from Google’s founders and $20 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, Nanosolar’s first commercial cells rolled off the presses this year.
“You’re talking about printing rolls of the stuff—printing it on the roofs of 18-wheeler trailers, printing it on garages, printing it wherever you want it,” says Dan Kammen, founding director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley. “It really is quite a big deal in terms of altering the way we think about solar and in inherently altering the economics of solar.”
You can go visit the Nanosolar website and be even more impressed. They’ve got a few images of the product and news videos showing their process, as well as an email list for updates (like when can I finally buy this stuff and stick it on my roof?).