Earlier this year the US Department of Energy (DOE) revealed that it had awarded a conditional commitment of US$150 million to 1366 Technologies for the development of a multicrystalline wafer manufacturing facility. The loan guarantee has officially been finalized and will see 1366 capable of producing 700 to 1,000MW of silicon-based wafers annually with its Direct Wafer technology.
The company originally developed its Direct Wafer technology with support from a US$4 million grant for the Department of Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy program and a US$3 million grant from the Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. According to 1366 Technologies, the Direct Wafer process could decrease manufacturing costs of wafers by nearly 50%. The manufacturing process consists of putting four separate production steps into a single, lower cost, continuous process that is said to reduce the silicon waste by forming individual wafers directly from a bath of molten silicon.
“This project is a good example of how investments in American innovation can create jobs and make our manufacturing industry more competitive,” said US Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “This type of pioneering technology is needed to compete and thrive in the global race for solar manufacturing, a market worth billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs in the years ahead.”
Phase 1 of the project will be built in Lexington, Massachusetts, with the company looking at other site locations for its second planned phase. During this summer’s Intersolar North America, Craig Lund, VP of Business Development at 1366, told PV-Tech that “2012 will be the year of building, procuring, and setting up of the supply chain, with 2013 as the ‘first real year of operations.’” The company noted that between its first phase and planned second phase, hundreds of jobs are expected to be created and bolster the local economy.