2011 was a long, dark year for solar cell manufacturers who faced dwindling global demand and crippling price reductions. However, new innovations to the wafer production process announced this month show promise of a bright 2012.

Within days, two competing solar panel manufacturers -- industry leader Silicon Genesis and newcomer Twin Creeks Technologies -- announced some exciting new, atomic-level production processes that are reported cut solar panel wafer thickness by up to 90 percent. This could be just the boost the industry needs to reclaim its momentum in the alternative energy race.

"We believe that the solar industry's severe pricing pressure further strengthens the proton beam-induced wafering approach," said Francois Henley, Silicon Genesis president and CEO. "We believe the benefit of using our technology will significantly cut the cost of making high-efficiency solar cells, allowing the PV industry to reach unsubsidized grid parity years ahead of expectations."