Nanosolar Promises “Fabulous” Residential Solar

In a recent post on the company blog, Nanosolar CEO Martin Roscheisen hinted at “near-term” plans for residential solar from the thin-film startup (hat tip to CNET):

To all those of you who are disappointed that our first product is not for residential homeowners, we can reassure you that we do have a fabulous residential solution on our near-term roadmap — one that will bring the utility scale economics of Nanosolar Utility Panel technology to homes everywhere and completely redefine how residential solar is done.

At what they say would be $1 a watt, we’d love to see Nanosolar pass those savings along to residential customers. However, in the residential solar game the upstream costs are just part of the story. Half the cost of solar on your home’s roof is for the low-tech process of sizing and installing the system.

Also, space, and therefore panel efficiency, is at a premium. Nanosolar says its CIGS cells can operate at 10 percent efficiency, while the current polysilicon panels can do around double that. So while we’re excited about any “fabulous” developments in solar, there are plenty of obstacles between thin-film solar and your neighbor’s roof.

Nanosolar’s most recent financing, $50 million from French power company EDF Energies Nouvelles, came with an agreement for EDF to buy Nanosolar panels starting in 2009. EDF would likely focus more on large scale commercial or even utility deployments.

Installer companies like Sungevity are using satellite imaging to speed up the assessment process while SolarCity is innovating on the financial side by offering an attractive $0 down lease program. Nanosolar’s installation partners would have to leverage methods like these, and make thin-film rooftop installation priced low enough so that the cost advantage of cheap thin film cells isn’t lost.

However, the big hope for thin-film solar in residential applications is in building integrated photovoltaic. If Nanosolar can incorporate their cells into roofing shingles, building siding and windows that truly would be a “fabulous residential solution.”

Oh, and if you’re an anxious utility executive reading this and are worried that municipal power will put you out of business while PG&E outflanks you by buying up those solar thermal plants in the Mojave, Roscheisen invites you on a solar Euro trip fact finding mission to Germany, land of bratwurst and feed-in tariffs.