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1366 Technologies Develops Process to Cut the Cost of Solar Cell Manufacturing in Half

1366 Technologies today announced that the US Department of Energy (DOE) has offered a conditional commitment to the company for a $150 million loan guarantee. 1366 will use the DOE funds to scale its Direct Wafer manufacturing capabilities in Massachusetts and build a second U.S. manufacturing facility that will produce the basic building block of solar cells – silicon wafers – at a fraction of today’s cost.

“As governments around the world push the commercial development of renewable energy and carbon-reducing technologies, the DOE loan guarantee program is critical to keeping U.S. manufacturing competitive and thriving,” said Frank van Mierlo. “With this loan, 1366 will realize its goal to make solar energy as cheap as coal while helping the U.S. to reclaim a key part of the silicon supply chain and restore the nation’s dominance in photovoltaics.”

The loan will play a critical role in the company’s expansion – creating two facilities and hundreds of jobs. The first commercial facility, located in the company’s home state of Massachusetts, is scheduled to be fully operational by 2013 and will produce 20 megawatts per year of capacity, employ 100 people and further New England’s role as a clean energy center. Construction on a second, larger, 1,000 megawatt facility is scheduled to commence in 2013 and create 300 permanent positions. The location of the second U.S. facility has not been decided.

Since its founding in 2008, 1366 Technologies has raised $46 million from equity investors which has helped the company bring its transformative Direct Wafer technology into production. Direct Wafer technology forms a 156mm multi-crystalline wafer directly from molten silicon. This is in stark contrast to standard wafer manufacturing which involves a multi-step, batch process of ingot casting, blocking, squaring, and sawing that wastes up to 50% of the high-value silicon. By using standard silicon and producing industry compatible wafers, Direct Wafer integrates into the existing silicon photovoltaics’ supply chain, providing cost savings to cell customers without added complexity.

In October 2009, 1366 received a $4 million grant from the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) to support the development of the Direct Wafer technology. “This has always been about creating a transformational technology, one that will allow solar to become a real part of our energy supply,” continued van Mierlo. “With the support of our private investors and the DOE, we’re now approaching the manufacturing stage and closer than ever to realizing the promise of our technology.”

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