Energy Department Finalizes $150 Million Loan Guarantee to 1366 Technologies that Could Drive Down Manufacturing Costs and Make American Solar More Competitive
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has finalized 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 capable of producing approximately 700 to 1,000 megawatts (MW) of silicon-based wafers annually using a revolutionary manufacturing process called Direct Wafer. The innovative process could reduce manufacturing costs of the wafers by approximately 50 percent, dramatically cutting the cost of solar power. Phase 1 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.
"This project is a good example of how investments in American innovation can create jobs and make our manufacturing industry more competitive," said Secretary Chu. "This type of pioneering technology is needed to compete and thrive in the global race for solar manufacturing, a market worth billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs in the years ahead."
The original development of the company's Direct Wafer technology was supported with a $4 million grant from the Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy program and a $3 million grant from the Department'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 when compared to conventional batch processing, which can take up to three days. The company's revolutionary one-step process requires 90 percent less energy and results in an industry-standard product that can be used by multicrystalline cell manufacturers.
The Department of Energy's Loan Programs Office (LPO) administers three separate programs: the Title XVII Section 1703 and Section 1705 loan guarantee programs, and the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program. The loan guarantee programs support the deployment of commercial technologies along with innovative technologies that avoid, reduce, or sequester greenhouse gas emissions, while ATVM supports the development of advanced vehicle technologies. To date, LPO has issued loans, loan guarantees or offered conditional commitments for loan guarantees totaling nearly $40 billion to support more than 40 clean energy projects across the United States. LPO has issued conditional commitments or loan guarantees to support numerous projects, including several of the world's largest solar generation facilities, three geothermal projects, the world's largest wind farm and the nation's first new nuclear power plant in three decades. For more information, please visit http://www.lpo.energy.gov.