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The Chinese solar company Suntech has roared back to life with a new silicon solar cell efficiency record, just two months after setting a previous record.

Clean Power

Suntech Ramps Up Silicon Solar Cell Efficiency Again, Beats Own Record

The Chinese solar company Suntech has roared back to life with a new silicon solar cell efficiency record, just two months after setting a previous record.

Fancy new solar cell materials like perovskites and graphene have been distracting us with high-tech sparkles in the lab, but in the meantime, good old silicon is still the gold standard for solar cell efficiency in the marketplace. Exhibit A is today’s news from the solar cell manufacturer Wuxi Suntech, which has just announced yet another breakthrough.

Suntech solar cell efficiency.

Suntech worker with HyPro cell.

The Suntech Solar Cell Efficiency Breakthrough

Wuxi Suntech, more familiarly known as Suntech, was acquired by Shunfeng International Clean Energy, Ltd. (SFCE) last spring, and the new breakthrough was confirmed by China’s National Center of Supervision and Inspection on Solar Photovoltaic Products.

Suntech’s monocrystalline silicon cells achieved a conversion efficiency ranging up to 20.82%, with its polycristalline cells coming in slightly lower at 19.11%.

According to the company, only two months ago, it achieved a conversion efficiency of 20.5% for its HyPro monocrystalline silicon cells.

The difference of .32 percent might not look all that impressive, but cumulatively those little increments in efficiency add up to huge numbers.


Solar Cell Efficiency Is Half The Battle

If you’re familiar with the “soft costs” of solar power, you know that the conversion efficiency of a solar cell is only part of the equation.

Furthermore, other elements such as solar tracking can pump up efficiency even more, and that’s where the SFCE acquisition comes into play in terms of overall solar module efficiency. Here’s how it all comes together:

As part of the SFCE group, Suntech and other subsidiaries are in the unique position to achieve even greater output in electricity generation through leveraging technological synergies… Coupling Suntech’s new high-efficiency modules with Sunways’s inverters delivers 3% more electricity generation. Moreover, SFCE’s EPC solutions deliver additional output yields of over 20% when used alongside Sunways’ Smart Linkage Tracker, and an additional 3% from the use of meteocontrol’s O&M systems…

Didn’t You Forget Something?

No, we didn’t. Advanced energy storage is rapidly becoming part and parcel of the overall solar power equation. So, naturally, you’d expect SFCE to have a finger in the energy storage pot, too.

As a matter of fact, just last summer, Suntech acquired a stake in the US energy storage company Powin Energy to the tune of $24 million.

Powin energy storage

Inside the Powin shippable energy storage system.

Powin specializes in lithium-ion batteries designed to be container-friendly for ease of transportation and setup.

That fits right in with SFCE’s customer-centric, one-stop-shopping business model, so stay tuned.

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Photo Credits: top, courtesy of SunTech; bottom, courtesy of Powin Energy.

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Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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