The U.S.-based company opened the 42,000 square foot facility yesterday, January 30. The demonstration factory is said to represent the last stage in the commercialization of 1366s Direct Wafer technology, which reportedly manufactures wafers at half the traditional costs.
Under the Direct Wafer technology, 1366 forms multicrystalline wafers directly from molten silicon. In the next year to 18 months, the company intends to ramp up wafer production into the millions, and finalize its manufacturing process ready to roll out into other facilities.
The company has said it is planning to build a second U.S. solar wafer manufacturing facility. While the exact timeline has not been outlined, 1366 has said it will begin searching for a location this year.
The second facility is expected to boast a capacity of 1 GW and employ 300 permanent staff. A spokesperson confirmed to pv magazine that the $150 million Department of Energy loan guarantee received in September 2011 will be used to fund the expansion. They added that solar wafer production costs for 1366 Technologies are under $0.12/W. No further details were disclosed.
"During the past year and in the midst of an industry downturn the company also steadily and quietly reached new technical heights, achieving competitive cell efficiencies of 17 percent in customer trials and sharply reducing the variance in wafer product quality," added 1366 in a statement released.