Fast Company

Printable Solar Panels Now Powering The National Guard

Nanosolar, which uses an innovative method to get roofs covered with solar panels, is busy outfitting Guard bases around the country. The nation's biggest energy consumer should be its biggest solar customer.

Someone forgot to tell the U.S. military that, after Solyndra's collapse, the government was supposed to be shying away from solar energy. The military has already signed a lease for a massive amount of solar panels for housing on bases around the country, and the National Guard is now exploring the potential of thin-film solar panels. Nanosolar, which makes a solar ink that can be printed on anything (including, say, a roof) just provided panels for a solar installation a Guard base in Ohio.

Nanosolar uses a proprietary nanoparticle ink that be simply printed onto aluminum sheets to make solar cells. This process has the potential to be much faster and cheaper than making traditional solar panels, and that’s what makes it so exciting. If solar panels can be cranked out like newspapers, the cost of renewable energy could fall precipitously.

Earlier this month, a solar installation at Camp Perry Ohio National Guard Base went online using 2,750 Nanosolar Utility Panels. The installation has a capacity of 538 kilowatts-peak. That means that, when operating at its absolute peak, the system will produce 538 kilowatts of power. To put that in perspective, the average American household used 12,773 kilowatt-hours of electricity for all of 2005. Were the Camp Perry installation to run at its theoretical peak for a full 24 hours, it could provide a family with a year’s worth of electricity.

Another solar installation using Nanosolar panels, at Camp Roberts National Guard Base near Paso Robles, California, is in its final design phase now. It’s expected to enter construction early next year.

Both projects are being funded by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP), which was launched in 1995 to test cutting-edge technologies that “address DoD’s high priority environmental requirements.”

After all, the military is the largest single consumer of energy in the United States, and has a vested interest in developing energy sources that are renewable, cheap, and fast to install. As Nanosolar VP of Worldwide Sales Brian Stone said, “we absolutely believe that the U.S. military is a very important future customer for our technology.”

[Image: Flickr user expertinfanty]

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2 Comments

  • Edgar A. Gunther

    Fact check:
    "Were the Camp Perry installation to run at its theoretical peak for a full 24 hours, it could provide a family with a year’s worth of electricity."
    Your math is off by two orders of magnitude. The installation could power more like 100 homes if net metered without running 24/7.

    Also, the ink cannot be printed on anything like a "roof". This is disinformation.

  • Charles Egerton

    Fascinating possibilities, but does this "ink" fade? How often does it have to be replaced?