September 9, 2009 / 3:04 PM / in 9 years

Nanosolar says opens German, U.S. solar plants

* Opens panel plant in Germany, cell factory in U.S.

* Says CIGS cells reach 16.4 pct efficiency

* Cuts costs for installation using larger panels

NEW YORK, Sept 9 (Reuters) - U.S. solar power company Nanosolar said on Wednesday it has opened a panel assembly factory in Germany.

It also said a U.S. cell production factory began operations earlier this year in San Jose, California.

The privately owned company, which counts as investors Google Inc (GOOG.O) founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, SAP AG (SAPG.DE) founder Klaus Tschira and venture capital firm Benchmark Capital, said it is currently producing about one megawatt of cells per month.

That output will be ramped up as its moves to supply customer contracts valued at about $4.1 billion.

The panel assembly plant in Luckenwald near Berlin is a fully automated assembly factory that can produce one panel every 10 seconds, or an annual peak capacity of 640 MW when operated around the clock.

Unlike most photovoltaic companies that use polysilicon to turn sunlight into electricity, Nanosolar uses cells made of a compound of copper indium gallium selenide, or CIGS, mounted on aluminum foil that it says enables it to produce efficient cells at a low cost.

The company did not reveal is production cost per watt, but said its CIGS cells achieve an efficiency of 16.4 percent and its panels an efficiency approaching 12 percent.

“Our foil cells represent two world records in one: It’s the most efficient printed solar cell of any kind (all semiconductor and device technologies) as well as the most efficient cell on a truly low-cost metal foil,” Nanosolar Chief Executive Officer Martin Roscheisen said in a statement.

Nanosolar also said its panels can operate at a higher current than other thin-film competitors, which allows more panels to be linked, cuts down on the need for cables and reduces the installation costs.

Additionally, Nanosolar said it has cut costs for mounting materials and cables used in placing the panels in arrays, lowering the installation costs that typically make up more than 50 percent of a solar system’s overall costs.

Nanosolar said it has developed a larger panel designed for utility-scale projects that uses fewer aluminum or steel rails for mounting.

That helps cut labor time for mounting by 30 percent and for cabling by 85 percent compared with industry leader First Solar Inc’s (FSLR.O) thin-film cadmium telluride panels, it said. (Reporting by Matt Daily, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

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