If you believe Frank van Mierlo, CEO of 1366 Technologies, one reason his company survived when so many other solar startups have tanked in recent years is sitting in the middle of the company’s meeting room.

1366 was fortunate that its technology didn’t compete directly with low-cost silicon solar cells, and it was still working on it when the bottom fell out of the solar market.

Now, as the solar market shows signs of recovering, the company hopes the time is right to start selling a new, cheaper kind of silicon wafer to makers of solar cells.

Even if 1366 is successful, it won’t necessarily open the floodgates to new funding for innovative solar companies.

The company’s technology produces thin wafers of silicon-the material used in most solar cells to convert sunlight to electricity-more efficiently.

At the same time, other companies are developing new wafer manufacturing technologies that have other advantages besides reducing waste-they can make wafers significantly thinner, for example, which could help improve solar panel efficiency.

That 12 cent savings could be an important part of the bigger effort to reduce the total cost of solar panels from about 80 cents per watt now to 50 cents watt or lower, where solar power could compete with fossil fuels.