New Solar Module Efficiency Record.. & These Modules Are Coming to Market

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solar module efficiency record
The picture shows a test system consisting of 40 high concentrating photovoltaic (HCPV) modules. The latest prototypes of the modules achieved a major milestone with 33.9 percent solar module efficiency. (Press picture: Semprius)

Yep, it’s that time again—a new solar module efficiency record has been set and independently verified. The solar module company is Semprius. The new efficiency record is 33.9%. The modules are actually set to come to market this year. And the efficiency percentage “was externally certified after measurement under standard test conditions at the Instituto de Energia Solar (IES) at the University of Madrid (Universidad Politecnica de Madrid),” a news release notes.

This is the first time that a photovoltaic module has converted over one-third of the solar energy hitting the module into usable electricity. The previous record was reportedly 32.0%.

“Depending on the specific location and irradiation, the HCPV modules can deliver an energy output per square meter that is two times higher than common polycrystalline modules,” the news release goes on to note. “Leading module manufacturers of conventional PV technologies achieve a maximum module efficiency of approximately 20 percent with monocrystalline PV modules and about 16 percent with polycrystalline technology.”

Also worth noting is that the module chosen for the test is not just a laboratory module—it is one of a normal distribution line that is expected to become commercially available later in the year.

Semprius has developed its innovative solar modules with support from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). (Yep, we’ve covered Semprius a few times in the past year.)

How Semprius’ Solar Modules Work

Semprius’ high concentrating photovoltaic (HCPV) module systems “bundle the sunlight on the modules with the aid of integrated lenses on small photovoltaic cells… [and are] especially suitable for sunbelt regions with high direct irradiation,” the news release above summarizes.

In a separate news release by the company, Semprius gives a little more detail on the unique features of its HCPV modules: “Semprius delivers a unique HCPV module design that begins with its proprietary micro-transfer printing process. This process enables the company to fabricate the world’s smallest solar cell – approximately the size of a pencil point – to create solar modules with unmatched efficiency and performance.”

Siemens Looking to Make Semprius a Market Leader

Siemens became a strategic partner of Semprius last June when it acquired a 16-percent stake in Semprius. It is confident that it can combine some of its manufacturing strengths with this highly efficient technology to make the company’s modules a market leader in the solar industry.

“Semprius as a leader in HCPV modules shows us that we have bet on the right technology,” said Martin Pfund, CEO of the Siemens Energy Photovoltaic Business Unit. “The world record is a breakthrough in module efficiency. Combined with our expertise in turnkey solutions business it has the potential to become a game changer for the solar markets in regions with high irradiation. With Semprius as a partner we will further broaden our portfolio in the photovoltaics market. We’re very pleased to be working together with Semprius to commercialize this technology globally.”

Semprius is looking to further develop and improve its modules, while Siemens is “focusing its research and development activities on optimizing system components such as the trackers, field design and inverters.”

Test Installations Ramping Up

A Semprius test installation has been in place in Arizona since August 2010, but global deployment of initial test systems is set for major ramp-up this year. Additionally, Semprius is “completing the construction of a pilot plant in Henderson, North Carolina, to validate the technology for larger installations. Ramp up of the first pilot line production of HCPV modules there will begin during the second half of 2012.”

The focus, as you may have noticed, is on utility-scale solar.

“This is the culmination of our emphasis on bringing smart design to solar,” said Joe Carr, Semprius President and CEO. “Our world record efficiency modules combined with our low cost manufacturing processes and Siemens’ PV system expertise will deliver a best-in-class global solution for utility-scale solar plants.”

Semprius is based in Durham, North Carolina (i.e. in the Research Triangle Park).

Sources: Siemens & Semprius

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Zachary Shahan

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