It’s common knowledge in the solar industry that thin film solar is on it’s way and will revolutionize the way solar panels are produced and used. No longer will PV solar panels require the clean-room style processes and expensive silicon parts that microchips popularized in previous generations. It’s the expensive silicon wafers and heavy shipping weight that really bump up the cost of “going solar” in today’s marketplace.
The current generation of solar panels already use much thinner glass and plastic mounting (which reduces weight) and only 1-2% of the silicon per megawatt of energy produced as the older panels. This is because of the way they are produced; a thin layer of silicon is sprayed onto a mounting surface such as etched glass or plastic. This type of solar panel is faster to produce and uses fewer resources but is more susceptible to errors in manufacturing and thus, is usually less efficient.
Looking forward to the next generation of solar panels we see thin-film technology taking hold. Thin film solar panels are created by using special printers to “print” nano particles of silicon and other special chemicals onto rolls of very thin plastic and aluminum. Hewlett Packard has long been considered the leader and innovator in ink jet printing, and here again we see them taking a lead. Recently HP announced a partnership with PowerFilm to deliver the next generation of solar panel creation tools. HP’s chief of printing, Vyomesh Joshi has commented on the application saying that “we develop a pump that [can] accurately deliver nanoliters [of ink or solar materials]” referring to the millions of printers that HP sells annually.
With this kind of scale and precision HP is poised to become a leading partner in next gen solar power for the masses. Already companies like Nanosolarhave proven the benefits of thin film solar and completely sold out of their first rounds of production.