Nanosolar is perhaps the most exciting new development on the energy horizon I know of. Silicon-wafer based solar cells have been the basic option for anyone wanting to generate electricity from the sun. Despite many improvements over the last 30 years, they are still expensive and difficult to install, and if aesthetics are a factor, well… forget it. When you are trying to integrate these into an older neighborhood you are most likely asking for a fight.
Nanosolar is a new technology that seems to offer much greater flexibility as well as lower installation cost. With nanosolar tiny solar cells are printed onto flexible materials offering possibilities for new rooftop applications. According to the Nanosolar web site “On June 16, 2004, Nanosolar achieved a historic achievement: the first time that someone managed to simply roll-print the semiconductor of a solar cell that can be as efficient and durable as a conventional crystalline silicon cell.” Imagine if this can be incorporated into everyday roofing materials, which is the suggestion.
Nanosolar says that they can produce these cells for $1.00 per watt, which is one-tenth the cost of traditional silicon solar cells. If so, that is huge, especially combined with greater flexibility for installation. Move over power plants.