1366 Technologies Opens “Transformative” PV Wafer Factory
Solar innovator 1366 Technologies, Inc. recently celebrated the opening of its new, 25-MW wafer manufacturing facility in Bedford, Massachusetts. The 42,000 square foot factory, slated to employ 100 people, represents the final step in the path to commercialization of the company's Direct Wafer™ technology, a transformative manufacturing process that produces a uniformly better wafer at half the cost.
The new factory is the heart of 1366's R&D operation and the proving ground for Direct Wafer, which forms multicrystalline wafers directly from molten silicon instead of today's multi-step, energy- and capital-intensive process. Within the next 12-18 months, Direct Wafer production will surge from thousands of wafers to millions, as the company's team of engineers and scientists fine tune the process to where it can be easily transferred and replicated in future facilities.
"A little more than five years ago, we set out to revolutionize the solar industry by solving the greatest manufacturing challenge in the biggest solar market," said Frank van Mierlo, CEO, 1366 Technologies. "Today, we're one step closer to that goal and our mission to deliver solar at the cost of coal. We not only have our footing, we're growing, scaling and preparing to lead in the eventual global industry turnaround. We have momentum at our back and the essential elements of success: a great team, a truly disruptive technology, capital and strong partners."
During the past year — and in the midst of an industry downturn — the company also steadily and quietly reached new technical heights, achieving competitive cell efficiencies of 17 percent in customer trials and sharply reducing the variance in wafer product quality. "The progress we've made is impressive and the pace at which it's been achieved, remarkable. We are now squarely positioned to take advantage of what will be a 100 GW, $100 billion per year market in 2020," continued van Mierlo.
This Massachusetts facility is the first of two planned by the company. In September 2011, 1366 was awarded a $150 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), to build a second, 1,000 MW U.S. manufacturing facility that will create 300 permanent positions. The company expects to begin its search for a location this year. "1366 Technologies believes US technology has a big role to play in the solar industry. Innovation, like ours, is at the heart of this country's global competitiveness," said van Mierlo.