Oerlikon’s Mission: Making Silicon Thin Film Solar Bankable

Can solar module producer Oerlikon inject new enthusiasm into amorphous silicon thin film technology, which until now has struggled to compete in cost and efficiency? The Swiss company hopes to do so with the launch Tuesday of a new line of factory equipment.

Signet Solar Chooses New Mexico for Plant

New Mexico might have lost out on the chance to have a Tesla electric car manufacturing plant built in the state, but it’s wooed solar startup Signet Solar. The company, which makes thin-film solar modules, says it will begin constructing a 600,000-square-foot solar module manufacturing facility in the town of Belen that could produce as much as 300MW per year and be operational as soon as 2010.

The plant could deliver as many as 600 jobs to the area, which is located 30 minutes south of Albuquerque. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on a media conference call wasted no time in pointing out the new green jobs and said that in the widespread economic difficulties, New Mexico is better off than most.

Menlo Park, Calif.-based Signet was one of the first licensees of Applied Material’s (s amat) thin-film solar equipment to get a “Final Acceptance Test (FAT)” certification. It’s already started high-volume production of its thin-film solar material at a manufacturing facility in Mochau, Germany. Signet says it took about seven months to get its thin-film line up and running with Applied’s SunFab thin-film machines, which can bring down the cost and time to production. Signet, founded in 2006, currently has 100 employees.

Are Thin-Film Solar Efficiency Standards Unfair?

Thin-film solar companies are tired of being asked about their conversion efficiency, which is basically the amount of sunlight a panel can convert into electricity. Part of that is because the thin-film manufacturers say the efficiency standard is flawed. And increasingly some thin-film companies are pushing for a new standard.
At a Credit Suisse party last month, John Argo, vice president of operations for Bloo Solar, said he would like to see the formation of an independent body to come up with an objective standard more reflective of the sunlight a panel would get on an average day.
“No standards measure for that,” he said. “It should be possible to come up with an equation to do this.” He argues that what really matters is the total kilowatt-hours a panel produces, not the cost per watt. (This is in contrast to the viewpoints of people like Suntech Power CEO Zhengrong Shi, who has said that cost per watt is the only metric that matters.)
What’s the problem with the current efficiency measurement? Commercially available thin films aren’t as efficient as conventional silicon-based solar cells, at least the way efficiency is measured today. The standard of measurement is based on peak power, or the maximum amount of electricity that a panel can produce in ideal conditions.
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Web browsing in the new Origami Experience 2.0

Earlier this week, I mentioned an upcoming four-part series on Origami Experience 2.0 and the first installment is available. Today, Brandon shows off the web browsing functionality built directly into OE 2.0. Without leaving Origami Central, you can view the web in an IE7-like browser that offers some extra bells and whistles. You’ll notice that this browser version is a little more touch-friendly for navigation and includes RSS subscriptions as well as web page snapshots. I like how the History from the URL Address bar shows previously viewed sites as tiles for simple choosing.The Origami Project site indicates that the software will be available soon, so this four-parter may coincide with an official Origami Experience launch for UMPC owners. Stay tuned!Update: As an MVP, I just got a pre-release version through Microsoft. I’m not able to share the actual file, but I’ll take a look-see to find out what might be different from the earlier beta I used last year.

India’s Solar Power Heats Up

The sun is shining on India’s Tata BP Solar, which recently signed an agreement to raise $78 million in financing to expand its photovoltaic manufacturing plant to 128MW. Currently, the pilot line produces 50MW of solar panels, with 60 percent of those sent outside of India to places like the U.S. and Europe. Calyon Bank and BNP Paribas provided the financing for the Tata Power and BP Solar joint venture, which expects sales of 8.5 billion rupees ($209 million) this year.

The Tata BP plant is just one of several solar manufacturing facilities planned in India after the government last year said it would try to get 10 percent of its power through renewable energy by 2012. Other solar companies in India include SunTechnics Energy, a subsidiary of Germany’s SunTechnics GmbH; Moser Baer Photo Voltaic Ltd., which is investing $250 million in a solar plant; and Signet Solar, which has plans to open three plants in India.

Who Protects Your Cloud Data?

Back in April, we speculated about one of the hidden dangers of depending on web services to store your data: the possibility that no one was doing backups. Now that possibility may have turned to reality for users of Omnidrive

J.J. Abrams Makes Buzz, Yawn

Jerking the blogosphere around like his own personal publicity puppet, the singular J.J. Abrams has bloggers and fanboys waiting with bated, Cheeto-laced breath for his latest in enigmatic show biz buzz. This time it comes in the form of a cryptic teaser trailer (embedded below), first seen before the Transformers movie.

Like so many teasers before it, the trailer doesn’t reveal the film’s title but tantalizes with explosions, Japan-bound bon voyages, and a decapitated Lady Liberty. And for this everyone from Ain’t It Cool News to CNBC is atwitter?

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Lafayette’s Broadband Dreams

Lafayette, a tiny hamlet in Lousiana is planning to joing the fiber future, thanks to the city’s utility. In a trend which is fast gathering momentum in rural America, most cities are trying to free themselves from the clutches of incumbents who pay little or no attention to these small towns. “I could run a high-volume Web business out of my home,” Ron Bertucci told a local newspaper and added. “That’s going to open a lot of online businesses in Lafayette.” Kevin O’Brien of Global Data Systems said he welcomes the competition LUS would present to existing telecommunications providers and added, “I think BellSouth has been charging too much for too long, and I’d like to see the city of Lafayette benefit from it.”