The US Department of Energy has recently completed testing on something called the Optical Cavity Furnace, which it says has the potential to reduce the cost of producing solar cells by nearly three-quarters. By using optics to more efficiently focus visible and infrared light, the Optical Cavity Furnace can heat silicon wafers used in solar cell production much more precisely and uniformly than previous forms of solar cell manufacture. The resulting solar cells are stronger, more efficient, and have fewer impurities.
In addition, the Optical Cavity Furnace itself is cheaper than traditional equipment used to produce cells. As the cost of manufacturing solar cells goes down, the accessibility of solar cells is likely to soar. Solar's power will then spread to many industries in a clean energy domino effect.
The White House has challenged the solar industry to produce clean electricity at $1 per watt. It has also set an ambitious national goal to achieve 80 percent clean energy use by 2035.