We are at a pivotal moment in society. Particle beam physicist Andrew Yakub was studying societal trends in college when he realized that to advance as a society, we need to improve our energy sources.
“It occurred to me that we’ve hit a point where because of industrial and economic conditions, there hasn’t been an advancement of technology in terms of energy. We’ve been in the age of fossil fuels for the past 250 years ever since the industrial revolution. We got lazy with it. As a result, society is failing to progress to the next level of where we need to be to advance as a society,” says Andrew. “We need a sustainable economy; we need energy sources that are clean and renewable. That’s the only way we’ll be able to increase world population and increase the level of human development indexes around the world.”
He started looking into photovoltaic electricity, or energy generated from solar cells, and started a company to finance solar installations with government grants. When he heard the grants would be ending in a few years, he decided to find a more economical way to install solar.
“I came across something that was discovered over 30 years ago: a method of cutting silicon without any waste and being able to cut it very thin, significantly thinner. That brought the overall reduction in silicon waste down to a record, which is 100 times less than what the market standard was,” he says.
It’s not just any silicon, but Float Zone silicon, which Andrew explains is 25% more efficient than other types because of its low oxygen content. While it was rarely used in the past because it’s expensive, his technology made it cost-effective.
A more efficient type of silicon combined with sleek slicing technology equal a product that’s poised to propel the energy industry towards renewable energy. Andrew founded Rayton Solar to bring the product to market.
“Our technology brings down the cost of everything that’s not the solar panel. Because of the efficiency increase, all the installation, the labor, all those balance of system costs are reduced by 25%, but we also bring the actual module cost down by 60%. We’ve hit the point technologically and economically here where we’re bringing the total cost of the installation of a solar system under a dollar per watt,” he says. “Once we brought it under a dollar per watt, it’s competitive with any form of energy, either fossil fuel-based or any other form of energy.”
“It’s true that solar couldn’t compete ten years ago, but the market has dropped so rapidly over the past couple of years that it’s just right now just above the point where it would be cheaper than conventional forms of energy, and then with the Rayton technology we bring it past that threshold. It’s competitive per kilowatt hour without subsidies,” says Andrew.
Rayton’s solar technology has the power to radically change the way we energize our lives, and Andrew says it could provide a boost to the economy as well.
“It’s the solution to a future for humanity. It provides high tech jobs. It’s what we need to provide a sustainable economy here in the U.S. To make solar panels using the Rayton technology you need a highly educated workforce, and that’s what the U.S. has – you can’t find it cheap overseas – so it’s the thing that could really spur and boost our economy if rapidly developed,” he says.
Out of the many forms of renewable energy, he believes solar is the most promising. According to the International Energy Agency, by the year 2050, solar could be our main source of energy.
“I really see this is as the solution out of all the renewables,” Andrew says. “The best thing we could do as a society is to adopt photovoltaics. Photovoltaics has the least if any environmental impact; I don’t know one case against a photovoltaic installation. Also, silicon is the second most abundant element on the planet, so therefore we’ll never run out of it. It’s also nontoxic. I see solar being on everything, every house.”
The future is sunny for Rayton; they plan to scale to one gigawatt of production in the next five years – that’s enough for around 750,000 homes, or the equivalent of two coal power plants – and they’ll advance from there.