1366 Technologies, a silicon solar module maker out of MIT, will show off a prototype manufacturing facility in Lexington, Mass. next week. After the Presidential Election it says it will seek $50 million for a 25- to 30-megawatt commercial plant, said CEO Frank van Mierlo in an interview.

Although entrepreneurs and venture capitalists are currently enamored with cadmium telluride and CIGS, crystalline silicon is going to be tough to displace in the solar world, van Mierlo said. 1366 claims the manufacturing processes it has developed can cut the cost of multi-crystalline solar modules by 25 percent. By 2012, the company hopes to produce modules for around $1 a watt, which will make solar competitive with coal. First Solar is less than two dimes away from the magic $1 per watt mark, but it's the one success story so far in alt-chemistry.

"The fundamentals are much more in favor of silicon than most people believe," he said. "The new material guys have a tough road ahead of them."

"We are not trying to do a new material or something fancy," he added.

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