US Department of Energy on Saturday said it will offer a conditional guarantee as part of a $150 million loan to 1366 Technologies Inc for the development of a multicrystalline wafer manufacturing project.

The project will be capable of producing approximately 700 to 1,000 megawatts (MW) of silicon-based wafers annually using a revolutionary manufacturing process called Direct Wafer, DOE said in a statement.

This project is a game-changer that could dramatically lower the cost of photovoltaic solar cells.  It is exactly the kind of innovation that puts America at the forefront of the global clean energy race, said Secretary Chu. 

As global demand for solar cells increases, this kind of technology will help the U.S. increase its market share and be more competitive with other countries such as China, which currently accounts for 60 percent of the world supply of multicrystalline wafers.

The wafer technology was developed with the support of a pilot innovation investment program housed under the Department of Energy, known as the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E).

DOE has issued loans, loan guarantees or offered conditional commitments for loan guarantees totaling over $33 billion to support 35 clean energy projects across the U.S.  DOE has also issued conditional commitments or loan guarantees to support numerous other projects, including four of the world's largest solar generation facilities, two geothermal projects, the world's largest wind farm and the nation's first new nuclear power plant in three decades.