First Solar, a cadmium-telluride solar cell manufacturer, has improved the total area efficiency of CdTe (cadmium-telluride) solar modules to 14.4%, breaking the previous efficiency record of 13.4% (also set by First Solar). For those of you who don’t quite understand what this means, it means that the new technology converts 14% of the sunlight that the solar modules receive into electricity.
What’s the Difference between a Solar Cell and Solar Panel (or Module)
A solar cell is the electricity-generating part of a solar panel or solar module. A solar panel/module is a collection of solar cells and the case made of metal and transparent plastic that houses solar cells in order to protect them from the elements.
So, the Difference between Total Area Efficiency and Single-Cell Efficiency…
A total area efficiency rating is more practical than single-cell efficiency ratings, because total area efficiency is the efficiency of an array of interconnected solar cells in a module/panel, which is how solar cells are normally used. When multiple cells are connected to each other, various factors, such as electrical resistance, affect their performance.
First Solar Holds World Record in Both for CdTe Solar PV Technology
A single-cell efficiency rating is literally the efficiency of one cell only. First Solar set the single-cell efficiency world record for CdTe solar PV cells last July, so we sort of saw this module efficiency world record coming. Both the 17.3% efficiency and 14.4% efficiency record-breakers were manufactured in First Solar’s Perrysburg, Ohio factory.
The U.S Department of Energy’s NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) confirmed this new efficiency improvement and it was announced at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi by First Solar’s Chief Technology Officer David Eaglesham today.
First Solar’s Updated Efficiency Goals
“This considerable achievement supports our module efficiency roadmap and demonstrates our ability to convert our record-cell technology into ongoing module-level improvements,” said Dave Eaglesham, First Solar’s Chief Technology Officer. “These records also underscore the tremendous ongoing potential of CdTe compared to silicon-based technologies.”
First Solar, just a few months ago, had a goal of achieving production module efficiencies of 13.5%-14.5% by the end of 2014. But, given its fast progress on this front, it updated its module efficiency roadmap in December (2011). Its new target is 14.5-15% average efficiency for its production modules by the end of 2015.
“Our continuous investment in R&D has enabled the steady progress of our technology, punctuated by landmark achievements such as this,” said Mike Ahearn, Chairman and interim CEO of First Solar. “Our consistent progress gives us confidence in our ability to achieve our roadmap goals, drive down costs and develop sustainable markets.”
More on First Solar
Here’s more on First Solar’s technology and some of its landmarks to date:
“First Solar, which has manufactured more than 5 GW of its advanced thin-film modules, utilizes a continuous manufacturing process which transforms a sheet of glass into a complete solar module in less than 2.5 hours, which contributes to the company’s industry-leading energy payback time and the low carbon footprint of systems using First Solar PV modules. First Solar also implemented the industry’s first comprehensive, prefunded solar module collection and recycling program. Anyone wishing to dispose of First Solar modules can request collection at any time, at no additional cost, and First Solar will pick up the modules and recycle up to 90% (by mass) of the material for use in new products, including new solar modules and new glass products.”