The race to solar superiority relies mostly on two things — cost and efficiency. Lately discoveries have been popping up left and right that will make solar energy cheaper and more efficient in the future, but the future doesn’t do us all that much good right now. Enter 1366 Technologies of Lexington, Massachusetts – they’ve pioneered a way to cut the cost of solar panels by 40% and have just received $20 million to go commercial. Now their cheaper solar panels are on their way to the energy market.
The method that 1366 Technologies created relies on one of our favorite things – conserving materials. Most solar panels are made by creating large sheets of silicon that are then sawed into silicon wafers (the most integral part of the panel). This method wastes about half of the silicon produced. 1366 Technologies creates their silicon wafers in ready-to-use slices by casting them at their optimal size, six inches across and 200 microns thick.
The final result is enhanced by a system of smaller wires that create less shadows helping to maximize the light gathering area. The silicon wafers are also punctured like a honeycomb so that when light smacks into the cells it bounces around and the absorption of energy is increased. The chairman of Hanwha, a Korean based solar company that invested in 1366’s technology, Ki-joon Hong, said that he and his company have, “every confidence that 1366’s innovations will fundamentally change solar manufacturing.”