Against the headwind of a chaotic solar market, 1366 Technologies of Lexington, Mass., a startup with VC funding and a DOE loan guarantee, just opened a $6 million, 25-megawatt wafer fabrication facility that could eventually employ 100 people.

For the last 50 years we’ve been melting silicon, creating ingots and blocks, and cutting the blocks with wire saws to create wafers,” said the CEO, noting that the incumbent process uses eighteen different machines and goes througha lot of consumables,” adding thatHalf of the silicon is wasted.”

Our process has none of these consumables,” said the CEO, noting that 1366 uses one-quarter of the factory real estate and doesn’t waste silicon in itsSemi-continuous process.”

1366’sDirect Wafermethod creates wafers directly from molten silicon although the firm has not divulged details about its process.

The end product is a textured wafer in a standard 156-by-156-by-0.2 millimeter size.

As Andrew Gabor, author of the GTM report, writes, “Saving silicon is great, but if this comes at the expense of cell efficiency, the technology doesn’t stand a chance. 1366 is closer to standard wafers than are any other kerfless technology, and the ability to sell directly into the existing market without any significant processing or handling changes is an enormous benefit for market introduction.”

Van Mierlo said, “We will work with China to help them get profitable again.” He noted the 70 gigawatts of global cell capacity and said, “We will give [China] a new lease on life by giving them a wafer cost that fits into a 50-cents-per-watt module.”