1366 Technologies’ Project Silicon addresses two of the major goals of the DOE’s PV Manufacturing Initiative Part 2 program: 1) How to reclaim a strong silicon PV manufacturing presence and; 2) How to lower the levelized cost of electricity (“LCOE”) for solar to $0.05-$0.07/kWh, enabling wide-scale U.S. market adoption. To achieve these two goals, US companies must commercialize disruptive, high-value technologies that are capable of rapid scaling, defensible from foreign competition, and suited for US manufacturing. These are the aims of 1366 Technologies Direct Wafer ™ process.
The research conducted during Project Silicon led to the first industrial scaling of 1366’s Direct Wafer™ process – an innovative, US-friendly (efficient, low-labor content) manufacturing process that destroys the main cost barrier limiting silicon PV cost-reductions: the 35-year-old grand challenge of making quality wafers (40% of the cost of modules) without the cost and waste of sawing. The SunPath program made it possible for 1366 Technologies to build its demonstration factory, a key and critical step in the Company’s evolution. The demonstration factory allowed 1366 to build every step of the process flow at production size, eliminating potential risk and ensuring the success of the Company’s subsequent scaling for a 1 GW factory to be constructed in Western New York in 2016 and 2017. Moreover, the commercial viability of the Direct Wafer process and its resulting wafers were established as 1366 formed key strategic partnerships, gained entry into the $8B/year multi-Si wafer market, and installed modules featuring Direct Wafer products – the veritable proving grounds for the technology.
The program also contributed to the development of three Generation 3 Direct Wafer furnaces. These furnaces are the platform for copying intelligently and preparing our supply chain – large-scale expansion will not require a bigger machine but more machines. SunPath filled the crucial development step between the original research effort in Lexington and the GW factory scheduled to be online before the end of the decade.
At the conclusion of the project, it is clear that the Direct Wafer™ technology will have a dramatic impact on the entire silicon photovoltaic supply chain by effectively doubling existing silicon capacity (by reducing silicon usage by 50%) and reducing supply chain capital costs by 35%. The technology, when fully-scaled in the US, will also lead to significant job growth, with the eventual creation of 1,000 jobs in Western New York.