Hanwha SolarOne, a Korea-based company, and Crystal Solar, a Santa Clara, California startup are collaborating to produce world’s cheapest silicon solar cells by using a new technology developed by the latter.
Silicon wafers are the most expensive part of a silicon solar cell and have so far decided on the final price. The industry has tried workarounds to silicon wafers by employing thin film technologies. However, as silicon wafers got easier to make each year, thin film startups started to fail.
Crystal Solar has developed a technology that cuts energy-intensive operations from the manufacturing process of silicon wafers. For example, a classic wafer is created from a gas containing silicon and other impurities, which is deposited, melted, cooled and sawed. The sawing process loses almost half of the pure silicon thus created.
Instead of all these, Crystal Solar’s method grows thin crystalline silicon wafers directly from gas, thus avoiding most of the above-mentioned processes, including sawing.
So, how is Hanwha involved in this? Well, it looks like they invested $15 million in Crystal Solar and are expecting even more production cost cuts from this investment. Chris Eberspacher, Hanwa SolarOne CTO, said that a viable, commercial product is set to hit the market in 2014.