We’ve been spending an awful lot of time on concentrating solar power lately, so now is a good time to step back and see what’s up in the world of high efficiency photovoltaic cells. The company JA Solar, for one, has just released a tasty little tidbit about its plans to accelerate production of its PERCIUM modules, featuring its new high efficiency solar cells.
JA Solar And High Efficiency Solar Cells
JA Solar is already one of the world’s leading manufacturers of high performance solar cells, and just last February it launched its new 6×10 PERCIUM solar modules.
JA Solar clams that its new PERCIUM solar cells are the first p-type solar cells to beat the 20 percent mark in conversion efficiency, which it puts at 20.4 percent (p-type refers to monocrystalline silicon solar cells).
You don’t have to just take their word for it. The company tested thousands of its PERCIUM solar cells last year and consistently averaged above 20 percent, a result confirmed by Germany’s Fraunhofer ISE’s photovoltaic calibration laboratory.
The 6×10 PERCIUM module has an average power rating of 285W. With a little more tweaking the rating could reach an average of 290W by the end of the year.
The key to PERCIUM’s high efficiency is JA Solar’s focus on passivated backside and local BSF technology, which enables good low-light performance.
If you don’t know what passivated or BSF mean we looked them up so you don’t have to.
According to our friends over at pveducation.org, BSF (aka back surface field) refers to a region at the rear surface of the solar cell.
Passivation refers to anti-corrosion materials, corrosion being an obvious enemy of solar cell efficiency.
High Efficiency Solar Cells Meet High Production
Conversion efficiency and low-light performance aren’t the only things that caught our eye. Here in the US, the cost of a solar cell accounts for roughly 35 percent of the installed cost of solar power. If you’re saving a significant amount on materials, fabrication, transportation, and installation you don’t have to push the efficiency envelope to the absolute limit in order to put together a cost-competitive package.
JA Solar also seems to have an edge there. Altogether the 6×10 module produces about eight percent more power per unit area than average, and the module is designed to cut costs related to transportation and installation.
The company also paid attention to balance-of-system costs, which is where the DC electricity from the solar cell gets converted to usable AC current.
The company will set one production line going to produce the 6×10 modules in just a few days from now, and that one line is just the beginning. By October 2014 JA Solar expects to have four production lines up and running, and four more in 2015 for a total of eight.
That adds up to 170MW of capacity this year, and about 350 MW next year.
Concentrating Solar Power Vs. Photovoltaic Cells
Just last February, Lux Research painted a rather gloomy picture of the outlook for concentrating solar power (CSP), partly due to gains in high efficiency solar cell development along with the falling cost of solar cells, and JA Solar’s march into the high effiency solar cell market bears that out.
However, the solar cell industry is still dependent on exotic materials, and as the solar market grows that supply chain could get stretched pretty thin, giving concentrating solar power the edge.
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