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A Brief History of Nanosolar's Big Claims

Nanosolar is one of the most fascinating solar companies out there. Founded in 2002, the company has laid claim to the highest cell efficiencies and the most private funding of any thin-film solar company for several years, sometimes suggesting that they can surpass market leaders like First Solar and badmouthing other competitors like Solyndra. Yet throughout that time, the company has not been making a product of its own in any significant amount.

Today, Nanosolar finally announced the beginning of full-scale production, while also suggesting that it can indeed surpass the 87 cents per watt that First Solar is producing panels for. For the first time, it will have the chance to back up its claims.

Assuming that the company can indeed bring its production to full tilt, there's just one interesting question left: What happened between the end of 2007, when Nanosolar reported that it was making about a megawatt of solar cells each year, and today, when it is beginning to scale up production with a megawatt each month? The short history of the company is below:

  • September 2009 -- Announces an efficiency of 16.4 percent with its best solar cells, and the beginning of serial production at a rate of about a megawatt of solar cells each month.
  • June 2008 -- Went public with its internally developed fast solar cell printer, which it said cost $1.65 million but could print out a gigawatt of solar cells each year, running at up to 2000 feet of material each minute.
  • April 2008 -- CEO Martin Rosencheisen writes a blog post on small municipal solar plants placed on unused land like landfills or water reservoirs, helping to define another opportunity for solar companies.
  • March 2008 -- Wraps up a massive $300 million financing round from a large set of investors, including private equity players and European customers like EDF Energies Nouvelles and Beck Energy. Instead of crowing over the amount, larger than any other solar company had raised, Nanosolar hid the news until August, when VentureWire ferreted out the story.
  • December 2007 -- Begins production in San Jose, at a very limited scale. This date becomes a favorite for critics, as the company doesn't say much about production for over a year afterward.
  • December 2006 -- Selects San Jose, Calif. and a site in Germany for its two plants, which are expected to eventually produce more than a gigawatt of cells.
  • March 2006 -- Reaches 14.5 percent efficiency with its best solar cells, the most efficient printed solar cell in the world.
  • May 2002 -- Two Stanford Ph.D. students, Martin Rosencheisen (the current CEO) and Brian Sager, found the company. Angel funding from backers including Google's founders follows two months later.