A new commercially viable solar-grade (SoG) silicon derived from metallurgical silicon purification promises to increase the availability of feedstock to the photovoltaic industry, providing new technology options to ingot, wafer, and cell producers. Recently introduced to the market by Dow Corning, Midland, Mich., PV 1101 SoG Silicon exhibits good solar cell performance characteristics when blended with traditional polysilicon feedstock. With bulk production starting earlier this summer, and customer shipments that began in August, PV 1101 is the first product to be manufactured at Dow Corning Solar Solutions Group's new production facility in Santos Dumont, Brazil.

For several years, the primary obstacle to the growth of solar energy has been the constrained availability of silicon, the key raw material used in the production of solar cells. Until now, the solar industry has relied on the supply of polycrystalline silicon, a high-grade purity product, originally developed for the semiconductor industry, which has left the industry with a serious material shortage. According to Dow Corning, the launch of PV 1101, produced from a very different route, will alleviate that restraint and offer a new source of supply as well as new options for the solar industry — a trend that if realized could mean a boost in photovoltaic installation jobs for electrical contractors working in the residential, commercial, and institutional solar space in the near future.

“PV 1101 is certainly one of the most innovative technologies to come along in the solar energy industry since the manufacture of the first silicon solar cells,” says Gäetan Borgers, director of Dow Corning Solar Solutions. “For years now, the solar industry has hoped to be supplied by new sources of silicon designed and dedicated to them. PV 1101 is a major step in that direction. It is a step that will provide a means of growth for the solar industry.”