Wednesday, June 28, 2006

World's Largest Solar Plant to be Built in California

Seeded by money from the founders of Google, the new company, Nanosolar, plans to build the world's largest solar power cell factory.

The plant will make paper-thin, flexible solar cells, and hopes to produce enough each year to generate 430 megawatts of electricity. By comparison, all other solar manufacturing plants in the U.S. combined only produce 153 megawatts a year.

Demand for solar cells has grown so rapidly that there is a shortage of the highly refined silicon that is required to make them. Nanosolar will move to a new technology that prints photovoltaic cells onto flexible plastic and foil, using a copper alloy that absorbs light and creates electricity.

Nonosolar will choose a location for it's plant in San Jose, Santa Clara, or San Francisco. They hope to begin production in 2007.

This new technology is a promising development, but it too may face supply limitations in the future. Copper prices have tripled in the last four years as world demand has soared and stockpiles dwindled. The dominant copper producing regions, such as the south western US and Chile, are maturing with few new projects projected to come online.


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