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7 April 2008


EDF invests $50m in CIGS PV maker Nanosolar

The week before last, EDF Energies Nouvelles (a renewable energy subsidiary of French firm EDF Group) invested $50m (€31m) in copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) thin-film solar cell manufacturer Nanosolar of San Jose, CA, USA. In parallel, a supply agreement sees EDF Energies Nouvelles gain access from 2009 onwards to part of Nanosolar’s solar panel production output. The firm serves nine European countries and has 1.4GW of installed capacity (and is building 1.1GW more).

Nanosolar previously raised $100m in funding in July 2006. Investors include Mohr Davidow Ventures and Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. The firm makes it CIGS PV cells using printing deposition on thin, flexible sheets of metal foil which, it claims, is far more cost-effective than traditional silicon solar cell manufacturing methods.

EDF Energies Nouvelles said that the relatively low production costs mean that it has secured a supply of panels ‘at competitive prices’. The firm reckons that the panels will help it, in particular, to expand its solar activities in North America.

Last December, Nanosolar became one of the first firms to start shipping CIGS solar panels commercially, and has already sold its allocated production output for 2008 and beyond. The new funding will be used to accelerate its production ramp up.

Once production economies of scale are exploited, Nanosolar reckons that it will be able to sell the panels profitably for as little as 99 cents per Watt, allowing it to compete on cost with coal power.

The week before the Nanosolar announcement, in a supplemental agreement to a July 2007 deal, EDF Energies Nouvelles also ordered an additional 60MW in PV panels from First Solar (which manufactures PV modules using cadmium telluride thin-film technology) , increasing its initial order of 230MW to 290MW. The panels will be used mainly to build ground-based PV plants in Europe (focusing on France).

EDF Energies Nouvelles says that the additional order is consistent with its policy of securing a supply of PV panels to cover the acceleration in its expansion in solar energy. EDF aims to build 400MW in PV power plants (for both itself and third parties) by 2011.

See related item:

‘Third-wave’ solar panels power Nanosolar’s first contract

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