US: New photovoltaic wafer facility receives $150 million loan guarantee


A location for a second site, as part of the development, is currently on and the project hopes to generate between 700 to 1,000 megawatts (MW) of silicon-based wafers annually. The manufacturing process is called Direct Wafer and condenses four manufacturing steps into one, which is claimed to reduce silicon waste, "by forming individual wafers directly from a pool of molten silicon," reads the statement announcing the loan guarantee.

When put into full production it is hoped that the wafer formation process can be completed in a fraction of the time of conventional batch processing. Direct Wafer manufacturing is also said to require 90 percent less energy and produces an industry-standard product that can be used in all standard multicrystalline cell manufacture.

The initial stages of Direct Wafering development was supported by $4 million and $3 million grants from two Department of Energy programs. The department has already offered commitments for loan guarantees amounting to $33 billion in the U.S., including some of the world’s largest solar power plants.

Announcing the loan guarantee, Secretarty Steven Chu said that this technology could help American photovoltaic manufacturers to increase their market share. "As global demand for solar cells increases, this kind of technology will help the US increase its market share and be more competitive with other countries such as China, which currently accounts for 60 percent of the world supply of multicrystalline wafers."