Solar cells as a technology are under constant scrutiny and constant research as numerous teams try to make them cheaper and more efficient. The world’s largest PV manufacturer, Suntech, seems to have gotten an edge, as it recently announced a new world record for conversion efficiency.
Suntech CEO Zhengrong Shi claimed a 20.3% conversion efficiency late last week during the company’s earnings call on Suntech’s commercial p-type wafer, which is already suited for mass production. This tops the previous record of 19.6%. Suntech is setting its sights even higher — having already beaten the record, the company is trying for 23%.
High Efficiency, Low Cost
Suntech’s latest design has its roots in the company’s commercialized PERL technology, which it developed in 2001. It’s currently sold as part of their Pluto high-efficiency solar brand. The current upgrade involves better screen-printing processes as well as less metal needed to form the contacts. Less metal means more surface area open to the sun and more current generated.
The new solar cell record by Suntech was actually set last year, and documentation is in a paper published late last month, so why Suntech chose not to announce it at that point is a little hazy, at best. Perhaps it was because, since the new cells don’t quite meet Suntech’s ambitious goals of 21.5%, which is the focus of the company’s next stage of research (the final stage being the 23% goal stated above).
Either way, Suntech is already producing highly efficient solar cells, and this new development just makes them better. Given Suntech’s upgraded solar technology, it expects to double its production of high-efficiency solar cells this year.
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