1366 Technologies to ramp ‘Direct Wafer’ production

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A new round of funding, led by Japan’s largest polysilicon producer, Tokuyama will enable 1366 Technologies to ramp its ‘Direct Wafer’ technology to volume production.

The company has secured US$15 million in a Series C funding round that will support construction of a new facility in 2014 that will initially be ramped to 250MW of wafers per annum, while targeting 1GW capacity in following expansion phases, according to the company. Actual timelines were not disclosed.

“1366 Technologies has the enormous benefit of being a ‘drop-in’ replacement for 60 percent of the photovoltaics market, enabling the majority of panel manufacturers to readily adopt the technology and immediately realize cost and efficiency gains,” said Hidenori Okamoto, Managing Executive Officer of Tokuyama Corporation. “As a strategic partner, we recognized the value in pooling our collective resources to accelerate the adoption of Direct Wafer. As an investor, we’re strengthening that partnership and reinforcing our commitment to advancing the technology.”

Currently, 1366 Technologies has demonstrated production rates of over 1,200 wafers per furnace per day, with two furnaces operating. The company said that it expects to reach production rates per furnace of 3,500 wafers per day (5 MW per year) over the next year.

“The team continues to make progress against our goal of delivering solar at the cost of coal. Our Bedford operation is well funded and cash flow from operations will be positive in 2013. This new round, led by a strong strategic partner, provides scaling capital for our next phase and is a direct result of our ability to consistently advance the technology,” said Frank van Mierlo, CEO, 1366 Technologies. “We’ve taken a very deliberate route to high-volume production.  In the process we’ve built a stable, capital efficient business during the most challenging of times.”

The company has so far raised US$62 million in start-up rounds, which has included Tokuyama Corporation, North Bridge Venture Partners, Polaris Venture Partners, VantagePoint Capital Partners and Energy Technology Ventures (a joint venture involving General Electric, NRG Energy and ConocoPhillips). 

The Direct Wafer process is designed to provide low-cost high quality multi-c-Si wafers by eliminating silicon wastage compared to conventional ingot/wafer production techniques.

The process also uses significantly less silicon per wafer that could be a significant competitive advantage should polysilicon prices rise again in 2014 as supply and demand come into balance, based on the recent forecast from NPD Solarbuzz that PV demand could reach between 45GW and 55GW next year.

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