Nanosolar and Beck Energy began building a 1-megawatt solar power plant in Germany last October, a delay that was caused by the permitting process and poor weather conditions, said Nanosolar CEO Martin Roscheisen Thursday.

Roscheisen provided some updates of the company's progress in manufacturing and power plant development in response to a story in the January issue of Photon International that is critical of the company. Roscheisen disputed several assertions made in the article, "Nanosolar: No news from the world champion in blowing smoke," contending that the magazine relied on "outdated quotes and information."

The article said Nanosolar and Beck Energy faced a significant delay in building the 1-megawatt power plant, which was supposed to be built on a former landfill in eastern Germany between May and November last year. It's not clear when the writer visited the site in Luckenwalde, but the story said, "And with 2009 upon us: the sign is the only thing at the construction site."

The San Jose, Calif.-based thin-film startup announced the power plant project in December 2007, when it also said it had started commercial shipment of its copper-indium-gallium-diselenide (CIGS) panels to Beck, its first customer (see Nanosolar Chooses German Town for Solar Plant and Nanosolar Begins Production).

Roscheisen on Thursday provided a photo showing the construction activity for "one of our European solar power plants," (see above) and wrote in an email reply that construction in Luckenwalde began last October "and in November active construction was taking place." He said the installation work shown in the photo is taking place in Germany, but declined to name the city.

Roscheisen also declined to say when the project will be completed, saying the construction schedule is determined by the installer. 

The Photon article said Nanosolar was supposed to start commercial production in 2007, but has little to show for since. At a Photon conference in San Francisco last December, the article said, Roscheisen announced that the start of mass production at Nanosolar's panel assembly factory, also in Luckenwalde, would be delayed until March this year. Roscheisen was quoted to say that the company planned to "officially inaugurate our production on March 24 in Berlin." Luckenwalde is just south of Berlin.

Roscheisen said the March date wasn't referring to a manufacturing milestone but an event timed for the visit of Germany's environmental minister and European Union officials.

"Irrespective of this date, the factory is already operating," Roscheisen wrote. All the tools for the factory were "up and running since the end of last year." In the past, Nanosolar assembled its CIGS thin-films into panels at its much smaller assembly line in San Jose, Calif.

The factory construction is completed to accommodate a production capacity of 620 megawatts. But the company is running in "one-shift mode only -- this is sufficient for the time being due to the massive capacity of this factory," Roscheisen wrote. He declined to say when the factory will start operating around the clock.

He reiterated his statement from December 2007 that the company had started shipping commercial panels by then. The company had been making CIGS cells for panel assembly in San Jose, Calif.

"Throughout 2008, we completed a first array of installations and our operations team managed to scale capacity by a factor of 10 by year-end ... and we continue to be on a roll! (Much of our production still isn't all that visible to the public at this moment given that all of our initial installations are all behind private fences and in plants)," Roscheisen wrote. He declined to disclose the amount of the installed capacity.

Nanosolar would expand its panel production capability in the United States if the U.S. economy improves to boost the domestic solar energy demand, he said.

The company has continued to expand its CIGS cell production at its San Jose factory, Roscheisen said. Last year, he said the company would use some of the $300 million he had raised to build a cell factory with 430 megawatts in production capacity (see Nanosolar Confirms $300M Funding).

The company's plan now is to build out the San Jose factory to make it its cell production hub that would have more than 430 megawatts of capacity, Roscheisen wrote. Roscheisen declined to disclose the current manufacturing capacity and production rate at the San Jose cell factory.

Nanosolar expects to sell most of its solar panels in Europe this year. The company previously had talked about building a 10-megawatt power plant in Luckenwalde (see Nanosolar to Build 10MW Power Plant). A local Germany newspaper said Nanosolar was teaming up with Beck to build the power plant.

But that project is no longer a priority, Roscheisen said. Nanosolar has several other power plant projects under developing for this year, and those projects are moving faster than the 10-megawatt project, he added.

He declined to disclose more details about those new projects, except to say that they are located in France, Italy and Germany. 

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