The solar industry is still in its infancy. New ideas, inventions, and innovation are the rule rather than the exception. With that being said, an exciting new solar energy technology has recently been introduced. The new technology is not about a new mousetrap, but rather, an innovative process to produce those mousetraps cheaper and more efficiently. In this article, we will explore the company and people responsible for the new idea. We will also discuss the technique and the overall impact to the solar and renewable energy sector.
The company is 1366 Technologies- This small start-up was founded in 2008 and is located in Lexington, Massachusetts. The co-founders are Emmanuel Sachs and Frank van Mierlo. Emmanuel Sachs is a former MIT professor and has a long history of innovative ideas. He is the inventor of the string ribbon photovoltaic process which was commercialized by Evergreen Solar. Sachs is also credited as being a co-inventor of the 3-D printing process that can create objects from a computer model. Emmanuel Sachs is currently the Chief Technology Officer and Frank van Mierlo is the present CEO. Former Department of Energy Secretary Stephen Chu claims that 1366 Technologies is one of the success stories of the Federal renewable energy program known as ARPA-E. Next, we are going to explore the technology that the company has developed.
1366 Technologies recently opened a 25 megawatt demonstration plant in Bedford, Mass. to manufacture photovoltaic cells. The company claims to have a better process for the manufacturing of PV cells. The current industry standard is to cut the wafers from a large block of silicone material. This results in the wastage of 50 percent of the material. 1366 Technologies intends to cast the multicrystalline wafers with an automated process. The industry standard of about 17 percent efficiency will remain the same, but the new process will result in a 50 to 65 percent manufacturing cost-savings. This will enable them to cut costs by an innovative manufacturing process rather than an increase in energy effiencies. Now we will examine their funding sources and partnerships.
The company has plans to scale-up their 25 megawatt plant to a 1 gigawatt facility. So far, the company has raised 46 million in funding from various venture capital groups. These include North Bridge Venture Partners, Polaris Venture Partners, and others. Funding partners also include NRG Energy and Hanhwa Solar. They have also secured a Department of Energy loan for 100 million. The estimated cost of the 1 gigawatt plant is 200 million. The company appears to have arranged suitable financial support for their endeavor. In our conclusion, we will discuss the possible impact to the solar industry from this new process.
1366 Technologies is not a financial success yet. They will need to solve any problems related to their new manufacturing processes. They will also need to prove they can actually deliver a lower-cost and equally efficient product. Competition is fierce in the solar sector and there is currently excess manufacturing capacity. This has depressed prices for PV cells and will make it more difficult for 1366 Technologies to deliver on their promise. However, the solar energy technology is exciting, and a new and innovative idea.