Update: 1366 Technologies confirms New York site for PV wafer factory

1366 Technologies, the solar wafer start-up backed by Hanwha Q Cells, has confirmed the location of its long-planned US factory: upstate New York.

1366, currently based in Bedford, Massachusetts, will by the second quarter of 2016 kick off construction at a wafer plant in Batavia, New York, in the Finger Lakes region.

A spokeswoman emphasised that the factory is a "multi-phase project", with an initial 250MW of production capacity , or 50 furnaces, due online in 2017.

But the factory will be "quickly" ramped to 1GW, and 1366 expects it to reach 3GW and 600 workers within five years, the spokeswoman tells Recharge.

The factory – backed by public funds from the state of New York and a loan guarantee from the US Department of Energy – adds more momentum to New York’s push to become a hub of clean-energy innovation and manufacturing.

SolarCity is currently constructing its solar module plant nearby in Buffalo, New York, and Solar Frontier recently confirmed that New York remains the most likely choice for its first factory outside Japan.

The factory will be the anchor tenant at the Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park, which the state has developed to lure companies in fields like nanotechnology and photovoltaics. The industrial park is located in a part of New York that benefits from cheap hydropower.

1366’s Direct Wafer technology allows it to make wafers individually by pouring molten silicon into wafer-shaped moulds. That is a radical departure from the traditional wafering process, in which silicon ingots are sliced, leading to wasted silicon dust, known as kerf.

1366 claims its process allows the production of the same amount of wafers with half the silicon.

By the time the New York factory hits 3GW of production, it will be utilising 400 Direct Wafer furnaces, the company says.

Earlier this year 1366 announced a “strategic partnership” with Hanwha Q Cells, the world’s largest maker of PV cells, and said it may directly supply Hanwha Q Cells with wafers made in the US.

Korea's Hanwha Group is an investor in the company, although it will play no direct role in building the factory.

1366 has been running a pilot factory in Massachusetts since 2013.

“The facility in Bedford was our proving ground,” says 1366 chief executive Frank van Mierlo. “New York brings us to commercial scale.”

“The technology is ready and 1366 is squarely positioned to lead in an industry undergoing rapid global growth.”