Twin Creeks announced the development of an ion cannon that could cut the production cost of solar cells in half. The new production equipment is more efficient than current tools, it enables solar cell makers to create wafers as thin as 20 microns, ten times smaller than current solar wafers. The increased efficiency should lead to higher margins, and promises a cost of around 40 dollarcents per Watt, about half the price of today's solar cells.
The company’s machines, and its processes for handling extra-thin wafers, could offer manufacturers a way to boost margins after a global glut caused solar panel prices to fall by 50 percent last year, Sivaram said. The price decline has forced Solyndra LLC into bankruptcy, prompted SunPower Corp. to seek a buyout and reduced margins of manufacturers led by Suntech Power Holdings Co. and First Solar Inc. (FSLR)
Twin Creeks expects to improve manufacturing in solar similar to the way efficiency gains in memory chip production have preserved margins in that industry, according to Sivaram. “In the memory industry year after year after year the price drops 50 percent, but everybody still makes money, and the people who make the most are the equipment guys,” he said.
“What we have done is located the weakness, it’s materials-focused, and introduced a completely disruptive technology,” Sivaram said.