NextGen Solar is one of a handful of companies and research laboratories working hard to bring a unique brand of affordable solar power to the masses. There are a host of so-called Third Generation solar products currently in development, backed by government subsidy and motivated by a growing solar market. Leading the way is solar nanotechnology, in turn led by solar paint.
Solar “paint” entails a nanoscale mixture of photovoltaic components that can be painted or sprayed on to any number of surfaces to create cheap, efficient solar cells. Research into solar paint is ongoing in places like the University of Texas, National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Argonne National Laboratory. Yet, at best, products under development remain just that, with a lot of promise and little production.
Startup NextGen Solar has begun another round of solar paint hype by announcing that it has achieved half the $1 million in funding it needs to move its solar paint from promise to production. Using technology developed at the Argonne National Laboratory, NextGen plans to create a solar paint that works at 40-percent efficiency for one-third the cost of conventional solar panels. Much of that stems from nano-solar cells’ ability to capture energy from a broader spectrum of light, thus increasing the amount of electricity it can produce in a smaller area.
But being halfway to a lofty funding goal does not by any means dictate success. And the announcement of that milestone sounds like little more than a way to get the company name back into the headlines. Granted that’s not necessarily a bad idea in an industry so competitive and a race to affordable solar power that is so heated, but that doesn’t mean it holds much weight. Yet. If NextGen does succeed in raising funding, and succeeds in mass-producing a product that lives up to the claims made about it, and can do it before its competitors, then it could be the biggest thing since sliced (silicon) wafers. But I say that with a capital IF.