SunLink, a developer of solar panel mounting systems, said it plans to start supplying a rack designed specifically for Nanosolar's panels.
The two companies have been working together the past two years as beneficiaries of the Solar American Initiative program run by the U.S. Department of Energy. The DOE funds projects that it believes could make solar electricity competitive with conventional power by 2015.
Under the program, the San Jose, Calif.-based Nanosolar has received $20 million to work with partners on developing solar panels, inverters and mounting systems. Nanosolar and its partners, including SunLink, also contributed another $20 million to the pot for the project.
San Rafael, Calif.-based SunLink, which recently settled a patent infringement lawsuit with SunPower, is developing a rack designed specifically to mount Nanosolar's panels on flat roofs, SunLink said.
SunLink said the mounting system requires a three-step process that cuts time and labor. The rack is lightweight and requires no penetration of the roof to stabilize the installation, the company added.
SunLink, which contracts with manufacturers in the United States to make its products, plans to start selling the racks in early 2010. The company declined to disclose its suppliers.
Neither company is disclosing the financial terms of the supply agreement.
The launch of the mounting system would help Nanosolar market its panels, which use copper-indium-gallium-selenide (CIGS) to convert sunlight into electricity. The company hopes to sell the panels to builders of rooftop and ground-mounted systems. Its customers don't have to use SunLink's mounting systems, of course, if they have their own designs.
The company has built a new panel factory and began mass production earlier this year, though it announced the start of an initial production back in December 2007.
In between, Nanosolar raised a $300 million equity round.
Engineering simple and sturdy mounting systems are critical for shaving installation costs. Another CIGS solar panel maker, Solyndra, has touted its own design as a money saver.
Applied Materials, which develops factory equipment for amorphous-silicon solar panels, also has its own mounting system design, which its customers could use for free. Applied's equipment could make panels that are as much as eight times the size of other companies' products, but it's received feedback from customers about the difficulties of finding suitable racks to mount the panels.