March 14th, 2012 by Zachary Shahan
A U.S. solar startup named Twin Creeks Technologies just “unstealthed” yesterday, and it did so in a big way. The solar startup is looking to make solar considerably cheaper with breakthrough/disruptive changes to the solar cell manufacturing process. There’s more detail on this solar startup’s cost-cutting solar cell manufacturing process available on sister site CleanTechnica, but here are some key points on the solar industry today and what Twin Creeks Technologies is offering:
1. Solar prices have been dropping rapidly in recent years. The most common type of solar modules (or panels) is now down below $1 per watt, on average. This is largely because there is an oversupply of solar panels.
2. Prices are actually approaching the manufacturing cost of solar panels, $0.80 per watt. This is reducing solar company profits and even putting some of them out of business.
3. Twin Creeks’ new technology and manufacturing process can reportedly cut the manufacturing cost of solar panels in half! It thinks its equipment and process can get the cost of solar panels down to $0.40 per watt.
4. This opens up two big possibilities. One: solar prices can drop even further. Two: solar companies can stay in business and profitable as they do.
5. Solar power is already cost competitive with other types of power production (i.e. coal, natural gas, etc.) if you take important health, climate, environmental, and power security costs into account. However, since we don’t take those costs into account (yet)….
6. Solar power needs to drop to $1 per watt after installation, or $0.50 per watt before installation, to be “cost-competitive” with these other options on the electricity market today.
7. Clearly, if Twin Creeks’ claims are true, its manufacturing equipment could be revolutionary.
Now, before closing, just a few things on the new technology (again, more detail is available on CleanTechnica if you want it):
Basically, Twin Creeks’ technology has two big advantages.
First of all, it is for slicing up silicon into solar cells or wafers. Today, a significant portion of silicon (about half of it) is typically lost as saw dust in this process, but Twin Creeks says that it can create flexible solar cells that are about 1/10 as thick as typical solar cells. Thus, it saves a ton of the raw material, the main cost in a solar panel.
Secondly, the machine it uses for this, an ion implant machine, also cuts equipment needs, eliminating the need for a handful of machines or tools often used in this process. That cuts costs further, of course.
So, it is with this double-impact that Twin Creeks says it can achieve the cost reductions discussed above. Promising news! I hope it all turns out as intended. As I stated above, solar power is experiencing serious price drops and growth, but if all this is true….
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