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Nanosolar scores $20M to scale up its thin-film solar printing tech

Nanosolar scores $20M to scale up its thin-film solar printing tech

Posting in Energy

Nanosolar has landed a new investor and raised $20 million to help fund the expansion of its thin-film solar factory. In short, the company will live to see another day. But for how long?

Nanosolar has landed a new investor and raised $20 million to help scale up its thin-film solar factory and fund new projects. In short, the company, which has a history of missed production targets and management shakeups, will live to see another day.

For just how long, is another question. A report released last month by Lux Research forecast the market of thin-film solar panels made from copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) will nearly double in size to $2.35 billion in 2015. But the way Lux sees the market shaking out, only a few companies will survive the significant capital challenges ahead.  Nanosolar was listed as one of the long shots.

Almost all CIGS makers need to raise more money to expand capacity -- crux numero uno -- and Lux views the market reach, financial stability and cash flow of corporations as the better partner.

The startup's new CEO Eugenia Corrales couched the funding as the "beginning of an exciting new period of growth for Nanosolar."  The funding agreement is more than a "new beginning." It signals that investors still believe that Nanosolar will ultimately deliver on its promises. Nanosolar doesn't fabricate its CIGS solar cells. It prints them using a nanoparticle ink, a method Nanosolar says reduces manufacturing costs. The company then assembles the cells into solar panels. Check out this company produced video for an overview of the technology.

On a positive notes, Nanosolar has expanded to a 115 megawatt capacity and the National Renewable Energy Lab certified its thin-film solar cell aperture at 17.1 percent efficiency.

Nanosolar has managed to raise capital, as this latest funding round illustrates, and attract new investor aeris Capital. And the company has scaled up production enough to finally ship solar panels -- a milestone the company's newly promoted CEO helped achieve in her previous post as heading of engineering and operations.

Still, Nanosolar has a long road ahead -- and big promises to fulfill. It faces cost and efficiency challenges, like other CIGS manufacturers, along with the added pressure of racing to catch its competition. The company only shipped 10 megawatts of solar panels, far behind its competition. For example, CIGS industry standout Solar Frontier shipped 13.2 megawatts of solar modules this month to NRG Energy. Last month, Solar Frontier was tapped to fulfill a module supply agreement of up to 150 megawatts.

Photo: Nanosolar

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure