Clean Power

Published on May 1st, 2015 | by Smiti


3 Solar Cell Efficiency Records In Just 4 Days

May 1st, 2015 by  

Improving efficiency of solar photovoltaic cells takes months, sometimes years. The last few days, however, have been very interesting as three different companies announced record-breaking efficiencies. Two of the cells even have the same technology.

Trina Solar, one of the leading solar PV modules manufacturers, announced on April 24 that it had set a new world record for high efficiency p-type multi-crystalline silicon PV modules. Trina Solar’s Honey Plus multi-crystalline silicon module reached a new module efficiency record of 19.14%. The efficiency was independently confirmed by the National Center of Supervision and Inspection on Solar Photovoltaic Product Quality (CPVT) in Wuxi, China.

Manz Solar CellOn April 27, Germany-based Manz announced that it had achieved 16% efficiency in copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar modules. This efficiency was achieved in commercially mass-produced solar PV modules. Manz managed to transfer the 21.7% world-record efficiency it had achieved in laboratory cells in September last year. The efficiency of the modules was verified by TUV Rheinland.

On April 28, Taiwan-based TSMC Solar announced that it achieved efficiency of 16.5% in commercially produced CIGS modules, bettering the Manz’s record made the day before. TSMC also improved upon its own previous record of 15.7% efficiency, achieved in 2013. The efficiency record for TSMC modules was verified by TUV SUD.

All three efficiency records seem to be associated with mass-produced solar PV modules and there remains huge potential to further increase the efficiency. Trina Solar also holds the world record for efficiency for lab-based multi-crystalline silicon PV modules. That record currently stands at 20.8%.

For CIGS modules, it seems that First Solar and Manz jointly hold the record with 21.7% efficiency for modules produced in research labs.

Image Credit: Manz

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About the Author

works as a senior solar engineer at a reputed engineering and management consultancy. She has conducted due diligence of several solar PV projects in India and Southeast Asia. She has keen interest in renewable energy, green buildings, environmental sustainability, and biofuels. She currently resides in New Delhi, India.

  • dogphlap dogphlap

    Solar City’s web page says they will be shipping 10,000 panels a day from their new Buffalo facility with panel efficiencies of 22%. Just what they will cost I don’t know but if they expect to ship in such high quantities they would have to be reasonably priced I guess. I’m impressed, my high efficiency Panasonic panels cost me lots of money and they are 18% efficient.
    One thing to beware of is manufacturers tendency to quote cell efficiency when it’s the panel efficiency that matters and that will always be lower than cell efficiency by a couple of percent or so.

  • BtotheT

    16% CIGS, Woo that’s beautiful for the price, much like the latest Perovskite. Solar’s gonna be a winner pretty soon 🙂 and we got the Powerwall to boot. I’ve gotta admit things are on the up n up for my outlook for 2016, and it’s much needed timing.

    • Rita

      If/when modules hit 25 % efficiency, it will be over FF if the price point is correct. :))


  • JamesWimberley

    It’s striking that Trina’s production module rating of 19.14% for a PERC poly silicon module is so close to its pre-production lab record of 20.8%: only 1.66% lower. The gap for the CIGS people is much wider. We may see 20% poly modules in production before the year is out, but it will be extraordinarily difficult to go significantly higher than that. IIRC the lab record for a poly cell has been stuck at 23% for some time.

    Further progress will probably require the radically new technology the big makers are so reluctant to plunge into, for instance perovskite-on-silicon tandem cells. Watch out for announcememets from smart minnows like Oxford Photovoltaics and Dyesol.

  • MrL0g1c

    Too many types, it’s bewildering:
    efficiency_chart.jpg (JPEG Image, 4190 × 2456 pixels)

    I thought that economical 18% efficiency panels we’re being sold for residential use right now. What are the top most common types in residential and utility scale markets?

    The VBH250AE01 and VBH245AE01 Modules go up to 250W output, 20.8% cell efficiency and 18.0% Module efficiency.

    • Larmion

      Residential is dominated by multicrystalline Si, with a smaller market share for monocrystalline Si (called ‘single crystal’ in the chart).

      Those types have a big majority of the utility scale market too, but thin film cells make a strong showing here. FirstSolar is doing very well with its CdTe cells.

      CIGS is much smaller, but is doing well in Japan and a select few other markets. It’s a very promising technology because of its easy manufacturing.

      Multijunction cell are extremely expensive cells used only for spacecraft and other niche applications where every square inch matters. They’re not expected to end up on your roof anytime soom. Same story for GaAs.

      The ‘Emerging PV’ lumps together all technologies without a proven track record. Quantum dot, organic and dye cells have low efficiencies and other problems, but can be printed on pretty much every surface. With better stability and even lower cost, they might find niche applications (think a shirt that charges your phone). Perovskite cells are extremely promising on paper (high efficiency, low cost) but degrade very quickly. They might go far, but then again they just as well might not.

      • zircon

        That was very informative, thanks. I’m checking the NREL efficiencies graph on a regular basis, but have generally assumed all tech to be equally viable, just available at different price points.

        • Larmion

          Your assumption of a linear increase relation between cost and efficiency is perfectly valid in the 15-25% efficiency range where the mass market panel technologies (thin film and Si) are.

          As you start going higher than 25%-ish, you need
          engineering tricks that are still horribly expensive (think stacking materials with different bandgaps and concentrating lenses). Costs go up much, much faster than efficiencies because of that.

          In the lower end (say sub-15%) of the market, you have technologies plagued by a very short lifespan and a total lack of manufacturing expertise.

          The one exception to my rule of thumb is perovskite. That has entered the 15-25% range long before becoming a stable, mature technology. Watch that one.

    • Johnny Le

      Are any of the 44-46% efficient panels on sale commercially? How much more expensive are they compared to the standard residential solar panels?

      • MrL0g1c

        Those ones are ‘concentrator’ which means you have a bunch of mirrors reflecting light on to them, the best non-concentrator is 37.9% according to the chart. I don’t which ones are available outside the lab but for panels which you buy to stick on your home or business roof you likely be getting 15-18% efficiency for now afaik, perhaps 20% soon.

        /I’m no expert on panels, I’m sure others here can be more accurate.

        • Johnny Le

          Oh, I would love those 37.9% panels. Clearly it’s still worth it if it costs twice as much as the 15-18%. I would be willing to buy if it costs 3 times as much since I don’t have a lot of space.

          • MrL0g1c

            Unfortunately the panels are limited to use on satellites and such because they cost something like 100x to 1000x more rather than 2x more. Cheap 30%+ efficiency panels are likely to be decades away.

      • Mikgigs

        First year they are as good as it says, on third year about 5 percent drop and then it stays for 10 years pretty much the same and then very sharp drop. this is my experience with monocrystaline panels -German make. There are problems also with mixed shadows (e.g. From trees) and very hot days. Do not expect miracles, things are still in natal phase for solar energy production and cost effectiveness.

        • Mikgigs

          About 12-14 % first year, forgot to mention

  • “On April 27, Germany-based Manz announced that it had achieved 16% efficiency in copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar cells”

    Oops, that link is dead. And the record was for a module, not a cell.

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