Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Solar Gold Rush

Venture capitalists after chasing riches with dot-coms, biotech and wi-fi are now looking to make fortunes from solar cell technology.

Some entrepreneurs claim they are not just in it for money. Sunil Paul, founder of anti-spam company BrightMail, has invested in two solar cell companies, he says he wants to build companies that go "beyond just making money."

The big buzz is around flexible solar cell sheets that can be mass produced.

Martin Roscheisen, chief executive of Nanosolar, hopes to drive the raw uninstalled cost of solar electricity down to about 40 to 60 cents per watt by 2006, from the $2.75 per watt cost reached by traditional solar manufacturers. This would bring the price of solar below most other grid sources, such as natural gas.

Also driving the lower cost would be Nanosolar's ability to print cell foil in large quantities. It could cover whole parking lots, or be painted on the side of buses and cars.

Worldwide, solar is a $7 billion a year business, according to industry experts. The world's largest player, Japan's Sharp, controls about a third of total solar cell output.

Silicon Valley Article on Venture Capital Funding of Solar Energy