One-Step Process for Photovoltaic Cell Production Could Make Solar Competitive
Solar energy's ability to compete with existing power generation has been prohibitive due to the high cost of producing photovoltaic cells from blocks of silicon. But a crucial breakthrough made by 1366 Technologies, has produced a "monocrystalline equivalent" wafer which can be formed directly from the melted silicon instead of sawing it from a block, thereby eliminating waste of expensive semiconducting material. The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E), a new division of DOE, announced funding for this 'one-step' research at the Energy Innovation Summit last week in Washington.
Chris Rivest, the co-founder of SunPrint, whose technology prints thin film solar cells, noted that "more solar energy reaches Earth in every year than the combined total of all the energy in all the fossil fuels still in the ground. Slightly cheaper glass may not be sexy today but when solar uses more glass than construction you can bet it will be." ARPA-E director Arun Majumdar explained to Scientific American that currently solar cost up to $4 per watt, but "...if you can reduce that to $1.50 per watt it can enable scaling."
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