Clean Power

Published on March 20th, 2014 | by Joshua S Hill


First Solar Sets New Thin-Film Efficiency Record of 17%

March 20th, 2014 by  

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.

first-solar-sets-solar-cell-recordThe 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.

Simple, right?

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  • lkwjr

    Wonder what efficiency will be recorded with Graphene nanotechnology??

  • stgore

    This is great news. Congratulations to the R&D team at First Solar!

  • spec9

    damn, that is pretty good. Are the panels still cheap at that efficiency?

  • JamesWimberley

    Remarkable progress in a short time. 17% overlaps with mainstream polycrystalline silicon panels, Mind you, First Solar were staring down the barrel of a gun and had to get more efficient or disappear.

    Maybe this news will stimulate the first-tier silicon producers to invest more in panel efficiency R&D, and not just in production improvements as they have been doing. Who will be first to a mass-market two-layer module at 30% efficiency?

    • Bill Kalahurka

      Yes, this is impressive. I have long thought that First Solar’s insistence on exclusively working with thin film (non-silicon) was going to lead to their slow demise. I am glad to be proven wrong.
      I know that Sunpower is constantly pushing the envelope on module efficiency. I’ve also got my eye on Solar 3D, although their technology is still in the developmental stage. I haven’t heard of anyone trying to develop a cost-competitive dual junction cell yet.

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