Picasolar was named the winner of the NSTAR MIT Clean Energy Prize for a process promoted as the single largest technology leap in solar energy efficiency in decades.
The prize, sponsored by NSTAR, was one of several totaling $300,000 awarded in this year’s MIT Clean Energy Prize, a national competition founded to accelerate the pace of clean energy entrepreneurship.
“Solar energy diversifies energy supplies and reduces carbon emissions, but cost has been a barrier to our customers,” said Craig Hallstrom, President of NSTAR Electric and sponsor of the prize. “Picasolar’s exciting new manufacturing process increases the efficiency of solar panels and reduces manufacturing costs. This represents a clear breakthrough that will help tip the scale in favor of solar energy.”
The team from the University of Arkansas has invented a patent-pending process that improves the surface of silicon solar cells using hydrogen that increases efficiency by about 15 percent and reduces the amount of silver needed for manufacturing. The process can potentially save solar panel manufacturers $120 million a year.
“Winning this competition enables us to further our plan to partner with manufacturers to commercialize our process that already has been proven in the lab,” said Trish Flanagan, President of Picasolar and a graduate student. “We are grateful for the mentoring and resources we have received from both our advisors at the University of Arkansas and the MIT Clean Energy Prize that will help promote our process to the $93 billion solar industry.”
The MIT Clean Energy Prize, founded by MIT, NSTAR and the U.S. Department of Energy provides capital resources and mentoring to help clean energy entrepreneurs from universities around the country jump start businesses. Now in its sixth year, the competition has awarded almost $1.7 million in prizes, and helped launch dozens of companies that have raised more than $130 million to bring clean energy solutions to the marketplace.