Calisolar’s claims its process should produce silicon for use in solar cells at less than half the cost of traditional polysilicon purification processes, which will reduce the overall cost of solar modules and panels. At full production, the manufacturing plant is expected to produce 16,000 metric tons (MT) of solar silicon annually, equivalent to more than 2GW of solar power generation per year. The project will be built in three phases of 5,333 MT capacity each, and is expected to be located in a former General Motors stamping plant in Ontario, Richland County, Ohio.
‘This innovative manufacturing process offers significant competitive advantages that will help the US to out-innovate and out-compete our global competitors,’ said US Energy Secretary Steven Chu. ‘This project is part of our commitment to supporting important innovations that create jobs, strengthen our manufacturing base and position the nation as a global solar leader.’
The project will manufacture solar silicon from lower-cost metallurgical grade silicon feedstock that is then upgraded using Calisolar’s proprietary silicon purification process. The company said its unique process uses significantly less energy to produce solar silicon that performs as well as polysilicon products made from more expensive and energy-intensive traditional processes, with capital equipment and construction costs approximately one-sixth that of traditional polysilicon plants.
Calisolar’s research in this area work was supported by the DOE through funding for the University of California at Berkeley and through $3m from the PV Incubator Program, which leveraged $6.6m in private industry cost share and was run through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
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