The highly-automated factory belongs to Solyndra, a three-year-old company that has received $600 million in venture capital and $1.2 billion in orders for its new modules, which look like curtain rods. Those big investors are betting the company's unique product will soon blanket commercial buildings across the world.No word on what the cost of the electricity they produce is. Photos of the plant here.
Instead of the standard panels mounted on racks that have dominated solar for the last 20 years, Solyndra's cylindrical solar modules collect sunlight more efficiently across a broader range of angles and catch light reflected off the roof itself. The solar cells also contain no silicon, which has been a costly component of most solar systems. The solar tubes look like reverse fluorescent light bulbs that generate electricity rather than using it. The mounting system is also light and small, as you can see in the image.
Targeted at a highly specific market — office and big-box rooftops — and with signed contracts in hand, the company, along with a small cadre of other well-funded solar startups, are racing to turn their scientific and engineering marvels into profitable businesses.
A report released last week by Lux Research, a solar-focused analysis firm, predicts that the total solar market will grow from $33.4 billion in 2008 to $100.4 billion in 2013. While traditional silicon-based solar cells continue to underpin most solar systems, there is a broad expectation among industry analysts and insiders that these new thin-film solar cells, such as Solyndra is making, will experience rapid growth.
Update: Earth2Tech reports: "The company says its design can cut the cost of installing solar rooftops in half and reduce installation time by a third." They also have a short video of how the cells are produced and installed.