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Solar Manufacturer Gets $150 Million DOE Loan Guarantee
DOE finalized on September 8 a $150 million loan guarantee to 1366 Technologies, Inc. for the development of a multicrystalline wafer manufacturing project that could significantly drive down the costs of solar manufacturing. The project will be able to produce approximately 700 to 1,000 megawatts of silicon-based wafers annually using a manufacturing process called Direct Wafer. The innovative process could reduce wafer-manufacturing costs by approximately 50%, dramatically cutting the cost of solar power. The first phase of the project will be located in Lexington, Massachusetts and is expected to fund 70 permanent jobs and 50 construction jobs. The company is evaluating site locations for another planned phase, which they anticipate will fund hundreds of additional jobs.
The original development of the company's Direct Wafer technology was supported with a $4 million grant from DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program and a $3 million grant from DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The innovative manufacturing process reduces four separate manufacturing steps into a single, low-cost continuous process and greatly reduces silicon waste by forming individual wafers directly from a bath of molten silicon. A thin sheet of silicon freezes inside the direct wafer furnace and is then removed and laser-trimmed to size. At full production, the entire wafer formation process is completed in just 25 seconds while conventional batch processing can take up to three days. See the DOE press release and the DOE Loan Programs Office website.