The Huffington Post reports:
On Friday, Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu announced a “game changing” development in solar energy. A company called 1366 Technologies, headquartered in Lexington, Mass., has developed a silicon solar wafer that would cut the cost of solar cell manufacturing by an estimated 50 percent.
The wafer technology was developed with the support of a pilot innovation investment program housed under the Department of Energy, known as the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy(ARPA-E). According to director Arun Majumdar, “ARPA-E is looking for high risk ideas that, if successful, can be high impact. Those that don’t exist today.”
Unlike traditional wafers–which are sliced from a large block, resulting in considerable losses of material (up to 50 percent)–these new wafers are individually cast to specific measurements, a more efficient model of production.
In 2009, ARPA-E made an initial $4 million dollar investment in 1366 Technologies, and on Friday, announced it would make an additional $150 million dollar loan guarantee to take the company’s research and development to the next level.
If projections regarding cost savings are accurate, solar may be on its way to becoming competitive with traditional fossil-fuels — though some in the industry remain concerned about barriers still in place.