First Solar announced on Wednesday that they had set a new world record for cadmium-telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic (PV) module conversion efficiency, reaching a record of 17%, up from its previous record of 16.1% efficiency.
The most recent tests were performed by the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), nearly a year after the company set its previous record, and only weeks after they announced their world record in CdTe research cell efficiency of 20.4%.
“This achievement demonstrates our ability to rapidly and reliably transfer research results to full-size modules,” said Raffi Garabedian, First Solar’s Chief Technology Officer. “We can take CdTe innovation from the lab to production faster and more reliably than other technologies due to our robust, adaptable manufacturing processes and the accommodating nature of CdTe material technology. Our R&D efforts are delivering technology that will quickly be scaled to real-world application as part of our integrated power plant systems, which are engineered to deliver the best performance, reliability and value for our customers.”
Garabedian said the efficiency milestone is also a signal that First Solar’s CdTe modules are becoming a more attractive option for application in constrained space projects and commercial/industrial installations. “With the highest demonstrated thin-film module performance, we are positioned to pursue new deployment opportunities around the world,” he said.
The specifics of the news can sometimes be lost in the self-congratulatory press releases, with only a special few understanding just why “aperture area” is important. Simply put, however, the more efficient a solar module can convert energy into electricity the more energy a single module can produce and, therefore, the more efficient solar technology becomes.