Cheaper Solar From New Silicone Wafers?

It looks like capturing solar energy may soon get  a whole lot cheaper. In an announcement made during the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit in Washington, DC, solar cell developer and manufacturer 1366 Technologies revealed they’ve created a new process for making silicone wafers that could reduce the production cost of photovoltaic (PV) cells by up to 65 %.

According to 1366, the conventional method for making silicone wafers involves four costly steps and wastes up to 50% of the super-costly ultra-pure silicone.So, they developed a one step process they call Direct Wafer that makes a wafer directly from molten silicone.

Direct Wafer

Image via 1366 Technologies

As the main component of a PV cell, the cost of the wafers represents a considerable portion of the overhead in making solar panels. More expensive panels means more expensive energy.  “While our goal to deliver the manufacturing innovations that will make solar electricity cheaper than coal is ambitious, the confidence bestowed on us from the private and public sectors is a direct result of our progress.” said Frank van Mierlo, CEO,1366 Technologies. “We’re well on our way to making our goal a reality.”