Monday, February 28, 2005


The company Nanosolar has a potentially interesting technology: self-organizing solar panels based on nanostructures that should be manufacturable at a substantial discount relative to current silicon-based panels. I forwarded this company to back in December. Thanks to an article appearing in, the company is receiving yet another wave of interest; this not only appeared via Knowledge Problem, but perhaps more forcefully, in Slashdot as well.

We should be skeptical. Recent history in Silicon Valley leads us to believe that extraordinary claims require extraordinary products, and thus far, nary a one is available for purchase. While the writer almost certainly made a typo when he claimed 120 W/in2, the reality is more like 120 W/m2, given the rated efficiency of the units at 12% and the average solar irradiance of about 1 kW/m2 at the earth's surface. In their defense, many of the principles' have advanced degrees from Stanford and other leading universities, and their investor list includes top-drawer names such as Benchmark Capital, U.S. Venture Partners, and Google founders Sergei Brin and Larry Page. Pedigree, of course, is no substitute for viable technology and a solid business plan -- as witness the multiply bankrupt, which could count superstar Jim Barksdale among its early investors. We need the technological miracles indistinguishable from magic, certainly, but first we need for them to actually exist.