First Solar Sets New Conversion Efficiency World Record Of 18.6% For Thin-Film Solar Module

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As new conversion efficiency world-record for a full-size, thin-film solar module of 18.6% (aperture area efficiency) has been set by First Solar, according to a new press release.

The new cadmium-telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic (PV) module module marks the first time that the company has shown-off a module that outperforms “the best multi-crystalline module recorded.”

First Solar logo

It should be noted that the 18.6% aperture area conversion efficiency relates to a full-area conversion efficiency of 18.2% — thereby notably surpassing the “best recorded multi-crystalline Si PERC module with an approximate full-area efficiency of 17.7% (based on 19.1% aperture efficiency and published module area data).”

The new world-record conversion efficiency has been verified and certified by officials from the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

This new record follows on First Solar’s recent (back in January) reveal of a CdTe research cell with a conversion efficiency of 21.5%, as verified by NREL as well.

“First Solar’s CdTe thin film is now rightly categorized as a high performance product,” stated Raffi Garabedian, First Solar’s Chief Technology Officer. “At one time, we might have been characterized as a low cost, low efficiency technology, but consistent with our technology projections we are now proving that CdTe thin film delivers both industry-leading performance AND sustainable thin-film cost structures.”

Commenting on the company’s aggressive investment into research and development over the past few years, Garabedian noted: “While silicon technologies have approached their theoretical efficiency entitlement and leveled out in terms of performance and cost, First Solar continues to harvest the upside available from its superior thin film technology. Our CdTe modules are now more efficient than the best multi-crystalline Si modules, and we still have a great deal of technology head room for further innovation.”

Image Credit: First Solar

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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7 thoughts on “First Solar Sets New Conversion Efficiency World Record Of 18.6% For Thin-Film Solar Module

  • Well any time efficiency is improved, in anything, that is good news, better yet that all RE systems are getting better more efficient all the time and at the same time more cost effective.
    As far as I am concerned all of us (mankind) need to reduce use/consumption of almost everything to be able to live sustainable.

    • We certainly need to cut way back on our use of the stuff that isn’t sustainable.

  • Higher efficiency panels will matter the most when sunshine space is at a premium especially in urbanized areas. It saves also on installation labor on per unit of rated power or unit of energy produced.

    Most problems I encountered with higher efficiency panels is that the premium priced is passed on to the customer but not the labor savings (less panels installed per rated power), and the net effect is that you really pay more per unit rated power than the less efficient panels.

  • The NREL have certified the CdTe record, but presumably not the claim about competitive multicrystalline modules. Trina claimed in April (link to pv magazine)“its Honey Plus multi-crystalline silicon module had reached a new module efficiency record of 19.14% with an aperture area of 1.515 m2”. That’s a production module; First Solar’s look like a pre-production one.

  • Being thin film, does that mean that we can get that efficiency from a molded, curved surface? If so, even though it couldn’t power an EV, it would be interesting to see one covered in these cells.

    • As you mount the panel on a curved surface you decrease the amount of sunlight that hits the part curved away from facing the Sun.

      Solar panels produce the most electricity when they are aimed directly at the Sun.

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