Silicon wafer manufacturer 1366 Technologies and a unit of Tokyo-based energy equipment supplier IHI have connected a 500 kW solar array to the grid in Japan. The installation is the first commercial PV project in the world to include solar modules that feature 1366’s proprietary Direct Wafer products.
IHI’s wholly owned IHI Plant Construction unit built the array at an undisclosed location in Hyogo prefecture, west of Osaka. The installation is expected to offset roughly 9,500 metric tons of CO2, according to an online statement.
“The energy payback of an installation featuring Direct Wafer products is accelerated to less than a year due to the fact that our technology uses just one-third the energy,” said Frank van Mierlo, chief executive of 1366 Technologies.
An unspecified Tier 1 Chinese manufacturer supplied the IEC-certified solar panels. The modules include more than 120,000 wafers made under 1366’s high-performance Direct Wafer process.
Massachusetts-based 1366 manufactured all of the wafers at its demonstration facility in the U.S. Its factory in Genesee county, New York, is the first commercial-scale facility for kerfless wafers in the world.
The company had already used the wafers at undisclosed test sites in Japan, the U.S. and Germany. However, the installation in Hyogo prefecture is the first time the company has demonstrated its ability to deploy its potentially disruptive Direct Wafer technology at scale.
Under the Direct Wafer process, 1366 forms multicrystalline wafers directly from molten silicon, rather than through a multi-step process, which is more expensive and energy-intensive. It claims its new method — under which wafers are cast, rather than sawn from silicon ingots — results in higher-quality, kerfless wafers that can be produced at roughly half the cost of traditional means. It claims that Direct Wafers can also serve as a “drop-in” substitute for PV projects, as cell and module manufacturers can easily utilize the technology without the use of new equipment.
In late 2015, 1366 announced that it had agreed to work with Hanwha Q Cells on the development of Direct Wafers. In April 2016, Hanwha Q Cells followed up on that initial agreement by signing a deal to buy 700 MW of kerfless wafers from 1366 over a period of five years. In March of this year, 1366 revealed that Hanwha Q Cells had achieved a new 19.9% efficiency record for a solar cell incorporating its Direct Wafer and passivated emitter rear contact (PERC) technologies.