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Published on November 18th, 2015 | by Glenn Meyers


1366 Technologies Direct Wafer Product Hits Performance Record

November 18th, 2015 by  

Massachusetts-based 1366 Technologies has announced a series of new performance records for its kerfless, drop-in 156mm multi-crystalline wafers, including a 19.1% result on an industrial line of Hanwha Q CELLS.

The kerfless solar silicon production method eliminates a costly part of the solar silicon wafering process, namely, the wasted silicon saw dust (kerf) that is part of the conventional ingot wafering step. However, silicon prices have dropped dramatically over the past three years and some kerfless companies have ceased operating, namely Twin Creeks and Ampulse.

Hanwha has achieved an average cell efficiency of 19.0% at its headquarters in Germany using 1366’s Direct Wafer technology with Hanwha Q CELLS’ Q.ANTUM. The companies state these results have been independently tested and verified by Fraunhofer ISE.

For those who are unclear about this methodology, the following video from 1366 Technologies helps explain some of the anticipated cost efficiencies from this manufacturing process.

“The disruptive nature of the Direct Wafer process is not only evident in the cost and material savings it provides, but in its ability to break the technology limitations of conventional wafer manufacturing. The rapid and significant efficiency gains we’ve achieved will be further increased by new wafer features made possible only with our process,” said Frank van Mierlo, 1366 Technologies CEO in a press announcement. “We intend to change the way the industry thinks about wafers. There are more gains to be had, and we have a clear roadmap to achieve 20% cell efficiency.”

According to the company, the 1366 team currently has a manufacturing hub of three operational furnaces at a demonstration facility in Bedford, MA. This means each furnace is capable of throughput in excess of 5 MW of wafers per year– on par with standard directional solidification furnaces, but requiring half the space and delivering a 60% reduction in energy consumption per wafer.

1366 direct_wafer_process

Direct Wafer is a one-step, kerfless wafer-making process that has the potential to revolutionize wafer manufacturing. By delivering higher quality “drop-in” replacement multicrystalline wafers with unique surface features, 1366’s Direct Wafer technology forms a standard, 156mm multi-crystalline wafer directly from molten silicon.

The company is targeting a first commercial-scale facility with 50 Direct Wafer furnaces, bringing production capacity to 250 MW of wafers per year.

“These most recent achievements are exciting because they were attained in industrial lines, not a lab. They represent a real leap forward,” said van Mierlo. “We are well on our way to producing high performance wafers at a cost of less than $0.40 each at GW scale.”

A production achievement like this will have a significant and welcomed impact on future pricing for solar panels.

Daniel Jeong, Global R&D chief at Hanwha Q CELLS, added this perspective: “These latest results demonstrate the potential in combining 1366´s Direct Wafer Technology with our unique Q.ANTUM technology. Together they can push the efficiency limits of multi-crystalline solar cell technology while at the same time reducing the cost significantly.”

Earlier this month, 1366 announced it will build its 250 MW commercial facility in Genesee County, New York. The facility will initially produce 50 million wafers annually and eventually scale to 3 GW of capacity, manufacturing 600 million wafers each year.

1366 Technologies’ Direct Wafer process forms multi-crystalline wafers directly from molten silicon at an estimated price tag of half the cost.

Graphic via 1366 Technologies

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About the Author

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

  • John Ihle

    What are appx German and Australian pv contractors’ cost/watt for inverter, rack and modules, and what is the cost to install a generic system? My cost for a system w/o other electrical equipment is appx US $ 1.30 delivered (7-10 kW) and can install systems well under the national U.S. average but nowhere near that the Aussies and Germans can. Apparently they’re providing and installing systems for the same price I’m purchasing through wholesalers. Permitting, interconnection, CAC, sales, etc aside.

    Since utility scale projects in the U.S. have relatively high installation cost/watt numbers, except for utility/commercial/industrial scale, I’d be interested in how equipment supply is structured in those countries.. Are U.S. equipment costs that much higher.

    • vensonata

      To add to the mystery. The installed cost of utility scale PV in Australia is higher than residential!

      • eveee

        You have my curiosity and attention. Got any links for that?

  • Daan

    Very nice they found a way to produce a cell witout al the extra raw material being lost in the process. This is the best way of producing things: use only the resources you need in the end. Maybe it can be 3D printed soon 🙂

  • JamesWimberley

    Why is the company named after a number? Did anything very exciting happen in 1366 AD?

    • Bill Kalahurka

      1366 watts per square meter is the intensity of the sun’s rays on the surface of the earth.

      • jeffhre

        Year 1366 (MCCCLXVI) was a common year starting on Thursday…

      • Nit picking: 1366 W is top of the atmposphere. ~1000 W/sq m is at ground level.

        • vensonata

          You get the prize Arne. That is the number and reason the company picked the number.

    • Bob_Wallace

      The three hundred year celebration of the Battle of Hastings.

      Well, you had to be there. The party was a blowout….

  • Nolan Thiessen

    There is some wiggle room for wafer / silicon price decreases to affect the total cost of home solar systems, but the returns are diminishing. This picture is a few years old but underscores just how little the wafer / silicon prices affect the final costs.

    • sault

      While total $ / W reductions in modules show diminishing returns, the % change in project costs in relation to falling module costs do not. Shaving off $0.10 / W off of a $3 / W total project is only a 3.3% while shaving off that same $0.10 / W on a $1.50 / W system is a 6.6% reduction. Like I was trying to point out to Marion, as other factors in project cost become cheaper, module costs will increase in importance if their $ / W do not improve in tandem. And as projects get cheaper, each $ / W savings on modules gets more important percentage-wise. And if these price reductions are caused by higher module output / efficiency, then it takes less racking, wiring, land and other BOS components to satisfy customer needs, providing a 2nd order effect on price reduction.

  • Marion Meads

    You can bring the costs down to zero for all we care. There’s nothing to be gained now with advancing the manufacturing of solar PV. The problem is the installation. Efforts should be focused on bringing the costs down at the installation side of things. At an average total installation cost of more than $3.75/Watt while Australia and Germany costs only a third of this, there is still a huge margin for progress in bringing down the installation costs in the US.

    • sault

      “You can bring the costs down to zero for all we care.”

      Speak for yourself.

      “There’s nothing to be gained now with advancing the manufacturing of solar PV.”

      Are you claiming that module costs do not affect total installation costs anymore? Because the whole solar industry would beg to differ.

      Sure, the USA’s installation costs are higher, mainly due to red tape and a hodgepodge of local / state laws that make it hard to get a standardized, permitted product out there. Customer acquisition is also a major reason why solar is more expensive in the ‘States. But you need to realize that once all these non-economic / non-technical issues are taken care of, modules once again become an even bigger driver of installation costs.

    • vensonata

      Interesting. Let’s say the panels were free. They still only account for about 20% of total installed cost. At 70 cents watt for panels and $4 watt total installed, if the panels were free the cost would be $3.20 watt. Still twice as expensive as unsubsidized Australian installed and close to that for Germany. There just is no excuse. Both Germany and Australian wages are higher than US for installers.

      • Matt

        But the 80% for other is a result of messed up US. It isn’t 80% else where. If it cost $3.75/w in US and 1/3 in Germany $1.25/w then $0.70/w for panels is over 50% in Germany.

        • John Ihle

          I don’t think it’s an apples to apples comparison. I looked at a couple Australian distributor websites that post equipment costs and overall they’re more expensive than what I can purchase for in the U.S…. It’s a cursory view, but If equipment costs over there are comparable to in the U.S. .. then I’d like to see more information as to how installed costs are calculated.

          • John Ihle

            sorry.. I said systems over there were more expensive.. they were actually appx 30 cents U.S. cheaper..for a system.. about 1.07/watt.. didn’t include other electrical equipment bos… only rack, inverter, and modules for a 5 kW 3 ph system. my exchange rate was backwards.

        • Mike Shurtleff

          Similarly in Australia. US cost is still high, but will probably drop below $2/Watt in a few years. Loss of ITC will bring a dramatic drop as inefficient installers go under, a phase out would be much better for US Solar PV industry and future US share of huge global Solar PV market coming.

          US UTILITY SCALE Solar PV is already getting close to $1/W. Panel cost is very significant!

          High conversion efficiency, 20% efficiency, for multi-crystalline Solar PV has a significant effect on installation costs.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Customer acquisition and economies of scale.

        Germany used a FiT program to allow people to make a profit off their solar panels. Australia has very expensive electricity making the savings very significant. In both countries people sought out installers in droves and built a system of very efficient subsidies.

        We used a more timid subsidy program in the US and we’re now seeing utilities take away some of the economic motivation for installing solar. Rooftop/end-user may be dominate in Germany and Australia. I suspect utility solar will dominate in the US. US utility solar is closing on $1/watt installed.

        • John Ihle

          As long as “utility scale” isn’t necessarily utility owned it’s good, imo. Elimination of territorial laws and initiate more and more virtual net metering.. community solar/wind on either the distribution or the transmission side for customers in addition to corporate customers.

        • Mike Shurtleff

          Right and panel costs are a very significant portion of that $1/Watt installed!

      • Mike Shurtleff

        Yes, there is no excuse, but progress in panel efficiency and cost reduction by 1366 Technologies, Solaria, and others is helping to build the pressure on plutocrats, or industrial oligarchs, and their mostly congressional republican puppets, to change from fossil fuels to renewables. Tipping slowly now, but speeding up. Very cool that 1366 Technologies and Solaria are licensing their tech to many other Solar PV producers. Very high impact by that route.

    • eveee

      BOS is dominant right now. Expect that to remain for a while but soften especially in the US as the subsidies fall. One of the prime reasons for high US BOS costs is the way solar programs work. Other writers have noted that US BOS includes finding solar buyers. It doesn’t take technology to cut red tape. Its a virtuous circle. As costs drop, finding buyers will require less efforts.
      Meanwhile, advances such as 1366 Technologies increase the EROI of solar. There are some attendant BOS benefits in increased efficiency.

      • jeffhre

        Agreed, BOS is dominant when looking at retrofitting. And more efficient panels will lower the BOS costs as well.

        What about new construction? Lower module costs makes PV installation in new construction more competitive with conventional utility connections, since what we are calling BOS is part of;
        1. installing a new service connection,
        2. permitting and,
        3. electrical work.

        All included as part of a normal electrical system for new residential construction. Therefore for this reason alone, I find it impossible to say – lower cost and higher efficiency are now inconsequential.

        • eveee

          Yes. Agreed. BOS costs can fall quickly as efforts are made to speed permits and cut paperwork. If Germany and Australia can do it, so can the US. Further BOS costs can be reduced on the installation side by realizing more efficient methods and designs.
          Rooftop installation with less roof penetrations and using roofing that works better with solar can greatly improve matters.
          Metal roofs with vertical fins are much more compatible with solar lifetimes, and installation for example. You don’t want to have to replace a rooftop solar installation because the roof ages before the solar does. Since solar can last 25 years and beyond, it needs to be used with a long life roof. And the vertical ribs of a metal roof make mounting possible without roof penetrations. Other roof constructions may be invented with even better PV compatibility and lower BOS costs as time goes on.
          We should be asking if panel costs still matter in Germany and Australia. Quite clearly BOS is still about equal to panel costs there, so panel costs and silicon costs are quite relevant.
          We need to take care not to generalize specific conditions in the US to the rest of the world.

    • JamesWimberley

      That’s the residential price, which admittedly is kept up by red tape, regulatory fragmentation, and old-fashioned price gouging (looking at you, SolarCity). Utility prices in the US Southwest are not much above $1/watt IIRC. In this market – still the largest share everywhere but Australia – the cell cost matters.

      • eveee

        In the US, when the ITC goes away, installers will have to stop putting the subsidy in their pockets and start figuring out a way to install more economically. They will push for reducing permitting costs. And find ways to lower their own costs.

        PUCs need to figure out how to reflect the true value of solar and respond accordingly.

        China and Japan were the worlds largest PV solar markets in 2014, not the US.


    • Mike Shurtleff

      You are not correct. There is everything to be gained by continuing to reduce panel costs and to improve efficiency:
      1. UTILITY SCALE Solar PV in the US is getting close to $1/W, so panel cost is very significant there.
      2. Any improvements in efficiency help to reduce installation costs. 20% efficiency for multi-Si, while getting the cost even lower is significant.
      3. Lower panel costs will be significant in continuing to lower the cost of installation in Germany, Australia, and other places as time goes on. This will increase the pressure to reduce red tape soft costs in the US. More and more people will be asking why they have to pay more in the supposedly free market USA. There is a reason some of the Tea Party in the South East has come over to the pro-Solar PV side. Real capitalism and lower cost of energy instead of just subsidizing the rich. Lower and lower panel costs helps!

      A little less hostility and a little more thought please. Yes, the installation cost of residential in the US is much higher than it should be, but the problem is not always as black and white as you often paint it.

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