Thin-film solar modules, long touted as a revolution in renewable technology, are getting a big boost from the U.S. government. The Department of Energy recently announced a $197 million loan guarantee for SoloPower, a San Jose, California-based company that manufacturers CIGS (copper, indium, gallium, and (de)selenide) solar modules. SoloPower is constructing and expanding facilities in San Jose as well as Portland, Oregon.
Together, three facilities supported by the loan guarantee will produce about 400 megawatts of flexible CIGS modules each year. According to the SEIA solar trade balances report we covered here on Monday, only 197 MW in total of thin-film solar -- which includes CIGS, amorphous silicon, and cadmium telluride technologies -- were installed in the United States in all of 2010. Moreover, the entire solar industry only installed 956 MW of all types in 2010, so 400 additional MW will play a major role in total US installations.
Thin-film solar cells have the advantage of flexibility, and can be easier to install than traditional photovoltaics. There has been talk of flexible, thin-film technologies that are also almost entirely transparent, allowing for the creation of solar windows. CIGS designs are also improving rapidly, with one research group recently setting a conversion efficiency record of 18.7 percent, up from 14.1 percent in 2005.
The loan guarantee for SoloPower joins a list of 41 projects with guarantees totaling $41 billion, all for renewable energy.
Image via SoloPower.