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D.O.E. Supporting Massive Increase in Thin-Film Solar Manufacturing

With $197 million in government guarantees, SoloPower will produce 400 MW of CIGS annually.

1 min read
D.O.E. Supporting Massive Increase in Thin-Film Solar Manufacturing

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.

The Conversation (0)
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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