The most efficient solar tech on the market today is the silicon solar cell. There’s just one drawback–implementing the tech costs up to $4 per watt, almost four times the cost of fossil fuel-derived electricity. Luckily, an innovative new production process could completely revolutionize the solar industry. 1366 Technologies says it can reduce silicon cell production costs by as much as 80 percent, finally decreasing the cost of solar to the point where it can compete with fossil fuel-based electricity! If the company can deliver on its claims, America may see widespread adoption of solar technology in the next few years.
Making traditional silicon solar cells involves taking a chunk of extremely expensive silica, sawing it into very thin wafers, connecting the wafers to a metal electrode and turning the substance into a photovoltaic device. Not only is the process time-consuming, each wafer costs as much as $300,000, with half the silica going to waste as grit. 1366 Technologies essentially turns a four-step process into a one-step process. The company melts the silica directly into thin wafers in a matter of seconds, eliminating all that wasted silica and saving tons of time and money. Saving time and money means that efficient photovoltaic cells may finally become cost competitive with fossil fuels, an absolutely crucial breakthrough for the solar industry.
1366 Technologies is one of 37 companies to receive funding from the newly created Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, or ARPA-E. If all goes well, 1366 Technologies says it will break ground on a demonstration factory as early as next year.