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Published on November 24th, 2010 | by Zachary Shahan

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Boeing to Start Commercial-Scale Production of High-Efficiency (but Not Record-Breaking) Solar Cells



Sharp, GE, Google, Boeing,… who isn’t in the clean tech game these days? Boeing (yes, the airplane company) has just announced that it “plans to deliver its first commercial scale high-efficiency solar-power cells for Earth-based electricity production in January,” according to Bloomberg News.

Boeing’s concentrating photovoltaic cells have an efficiency of up to 39.2%, which is excellent, but not record-breaking as some sites around the web are saying. Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) set the solar cell efficiency record at 40.8% in 2008 and German researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems set the record a little higher at 41.1% at the beginning of 2009.

Nonetheless, commercial production of such an efficient solar cell is a great success, and Boeing says its efficiency may average 40% next year once improvements are made during the production process.

The high-efficiency solar cells have been developed by Boeing’s Spectrolab unit for satellites and the International Space Station. They are made from single-crystal germanium substrates.

Boeing is intending to produce up to 10 million of these solar cells next year.

While, as I wrote above, Boeing has not set a solar cell efficiency record (yet), this statement from the Bloomberg News coverage is probably what has generated the confusion:

The top polysilicon-based solar panels manufactured by SunPower Corp., based in San Jose, California, can convert a maximum of 22 percent of the sun’s rays into electricity. In June, a SunPower solar cell reached a 24.2 percent conversion efficiency, the record for large silicon wafers.

Looks like Boeing has made another big stride forward. Perhaps you’ll have Boeing solar cells on your roof soon.

Photo Credit: ~DocBudie~ via flickr (CC license)

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he's the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • Jay B

    When will these type of articles focus on Return On Investment related to Solar Electric arrays ?

  • Frank Hanlan

    What are the energy costs for producing these cells and do they require minerals obtained from dirty mining practices?

    • http://www.zacharyshahan.com Zachary Shahan

      Frank, I’m not sure. You can check with spectrolab: http://www.spectrolab.com/

      & feel free to report back here on what you find :D

  • sola

    By the way: these Spectrolab cells have been around for quite a while but since concentrating PV hasn’t take off there was not really need for mass production.

    We can now hope that some of the concentrating players are now ramping up.

  • sola

    These cells mostly are used in concentrated solar PV applications since they tolerate 500x suns.

    This makes it possible to pay for the MUCH HIGHER price of these cells.

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