Frank van Mierlo, CEO of 1366 Technologies, says the company’s silicon wafer technology more.

The way this is going, solar is definitely going to be cheaper than coal by the end of the decade.”

His venture-backed firm, he said, is poised to play a key role by producing low-cost solar wafers, the building blocks of solar cells.

Founded in 2008, 1366 says it has developed a new process for manufacturing solar wafers that wastes less silicon and energy, costing as much as 70 percent less than conventional processes.

The company intends to become a supplier of the wafers to solar panel makers, and in January, the company opened its new 42,000-square-foot plant in Bedford.

The company’sDirect wafertechnology was invented by 1366 co-founder and CTO Ely Sachs, formerly a longtime professor at MIT. The Bedford plant is the stepping stone to the firm’s first full-fledged commercial plant, which will be backed in part by a $150 million U.S. Department of Energy commitment.

Last week, 1366 said it has entered a partnership with major Japanese silicon producer Tokuyama Corporation which aims to continue driving down the cost of solar.