More DoE love: 1366, Cogentrix claim $240M for mc-Si, CPV projects

Days after pledging $145M across 69 solar projects, the US DoE is pledging even more to a pair of companies: 1366 Technologies for its Direct Wafer mc-Si process, and Cogentrix for a 30MW CPV project.

September 9, 2011 – Days after pledging $145M across 69 solar projects, the US DoE is opening its wallet again with some big pledges to a pair of companies: 1366 Technologies (mc-Si wafermaking process) and Cogentrix (CPV project).

The bigger of the two DoE loan guarantees, $150M to 1366 Technologies (first offered in June), will support development of the company’s “Direct Wafer” multicrystalline wafer process which promises to reduce wafer manufacturing costs by 50% by turning four separate steps into a single continuous process. Instead of the standard wafer-making process of ingot casting/shaping/sawing (which also wastes lots of material), individual wafers are formed directly from a bath of molten silicon, with a thin sheet of Si frozen inside the direct wafer furnace, removed, and laser-trimmed to industry-standard size — a 25sec process at full production, the company says, vs. up to three days for conventional batch wafer processing. It’s also far more energy efficient (90% less energy) in an infamously power-hungry manufacturing area. DoE initially supported the Direct Wafer development in late 2009 with a $4M grant from its Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E).

Phase one of the 1366 project targets a 20MW facility in Lexington, MA running by 2013, funding 70 permanent jobs and 50 construction jobs. A planned second phase (site evaluations are underway) would add a second larger facility, widening capacity to >1000MW annual production, and funding hundreds more jobs.

Meanwhile, the DoE has finalized its $90.6M loan guarantee to Cogentrix (first proposed back in May) to support its proposed 30MW Alamosa solar generating project in south-central Colorado, one of the first utility-scale facilities using high-concentration PV (CPV) in the nation. Construction is slated to start in mid-2012.

The technology underpinning the Alamosa project is HCPV with concentrating optics and multijunction solar cell panels from Amonix (“nearly 40% efficiency” according to the company) built on a dual-axis tracking system. Mortenson was picked as the GC. Expected to power up to 6500 homes, the project has a 20-year PPA with PSC of Colorado. It’ll also source 80% of components domestically, the company says, and will support up to 100 construction jobs.

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