Trina Solar Breaks Solar Record With 21.25% Efficient Cells

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Originally published on Solar Love.

A new solar cell efficiency record has been set by China’s Trina Solar Limited, which announced that its new p-type multi-crystalline silicon solar cell has achieved a solar conversion efficiency of 21.25 percent according to the results of third-party testing. Greater efficiency does not necessarily translate into lower costs, but the manufacturing method is based on Trina’s existing technology and the company anticipates that its new solar cell will provide an extra push to the steep downward trend for the cost of solar-sourced electricity.

Trina-solar-cell-efficiency-recordSomewhat ironically, the news of additional progress in the solar energy field caps off a series of extremely bad news for fossil fuels — particularly petroleum — beginning with the incredible Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal on up to denial of a permit for the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline in the US, and the exposure of ExxonMobil’s duplicity on climate change.

Solar Cell Efficiency Records

Where were we? Oh right, the new solar cell efficiency record. For those of you new to the topic, while complex multi-layer solar cells can already achieve solar conversion efficiencies far greater than 21 percent, relatively low cost and simplicity still provides silicon solar cells with an edge in the marketplace.

Trina Solar had its solar cell efficiency rated by the Fraunhofer ISE in Germany, which just a few days ago issued a report on the current state of solar technology and markets. Here’s what Fraunhofer had to say about solar cell efficiency records for technologies on the market today:

The record lab cell efficiency is 25.6 % for mono-crystalline and 20.8 % for multi-crystalline silicon wafer-based technology.

The highest lab efficiency in thin film technology is 21.0 % for CdTe and 20.5 % for CIGS solar cells.

In the last 10 years, the efficiency of average commercial wafer-based silicon modules increased from about 12 % to 16 %. At the same time, CdTe module efficiency increased from 9 % to 13 %.

In the laboratory, best performing modules are based on mono- crystalline silicon with about 23 % efficiency. Record efficiencies demonstrate the potential for further efficiency increases at the production level.

In the laboratory, high concentration multi-junction solar cells achieve an efficiency of up to 46.0 % today. With concentrator technology, module efficiencies of up to 38.9 % have been reached.

Did you catch that first item where it said the record for multi-crystalline solar cells was *only* 21 percent? Fortunately, the researchers who put together the report prefaced the whole thing by noting that in the fast-paced world of solar cell efficiency development, their information would probably be out of date sooner rather than later.

And, they were right.

The Trina Solar Cell Efficiency Record

That mark of 20.8 percent was probably rounded up from Trina’s earlier record-setting entry for solar cell efficiency, which clocked in at 20.76 percent about one year ago.

If you’re thinking that the difference between 20.76 and 21.25 doesn’t sound all that impressive, consider that even just breaking the 20 percent barrier has been a long, hard slog. Solar cell efficiency for multi-crystalline silicon technology was still hovering around the 19.8 percent mark back in 1999. As described in the solar cell efficiency study we came across, the researchers zeroed in on a “honeycomb” surface, echoing Trina’s Honey Plus brand:

The improved multicrystalline cell performance results [partly] from isotropic etching to form a hexagonally-symmetric “honeycomb” surface texture. This texture, largely of inverted hemispheres, reduces reflection loss and improves absorption of infrared light by effectively acting as a randomizer.

In its solar cell efficiency announcement, Trina notes that it purposefully focused on low-cost, scalable processes to manufacture the record breaking solar cell, leading to high-volume commercial production. Here’s the rundown:

The record-breaking p-type multi-crystalline silicon solar cell was fabricated on a high-quality mc-Si substrate with a process that integrates advanced Honey Plus technologies including back surface passivation and local back surface field. The 156×156 mm2 solar cell reached a total-area efficiency of 21.25%.

Solar Cell Efficiency Up, ExxonMobil Down

Getting back to that bad week for petroleum, ExxonMobil is dealing with a barrage of criticism for knowing all about the global risks and impacts of its products, yet choosing to sit on the facts while supporting a mini-industry of lies about climate science. As of this writing the company is also under investigation by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, so there’s that.

In a 2008 article, New York Times reporter Jad Mouawad provides a fascinating glimpse into the corporate culture behind the global warming denial strategy. Do read the whole thing but here’s a snippet including a remark by ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson:

What might be called the Exxon Way can be summed up in three ideals: discipline, patience and long-term vision. It is a formula the company drills into its managers from the moment they join Exxon, and which it keeps repeating through their careers. It explains the company’s resilience and its view that it has survived, and thrived, through countless commodity cycles.

“We are all homegrown,” Mr. Tillerson says. “That happens through a very deliberate and very closely managed process, and it starts the day the person walks through the door with us. And we are the product of that system…

TAKE a room full of oil managers, and the Exxon people usually stand out, even as they try not to draw much attention to themselves. They typically band together, and often cultivate an aura of secrecy — and sometimes superiority — toward the outside world.

Follow me on Twitter and Google.

Image (screenshot) via Trina Solar.

Reprinted with permission.

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

CleanTechnica Holiday Wish Book

Holiday Wish Book Cover

Click to download.

Our Latest EVObsession Video

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it!! So, we've decided to completely nix paywalls here at CleanTechnica. But...
Like other media companies, we need reader support! If you support us, please chip in a bit monthly to help our team write, edit, and publish 15 cleantech stories a day!
Thank you!

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.

Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

Tina Casey has 3141 posts and counting. See all posts by Tina Casey

6 thoughts on “Trina Solar Breaks Solar Record With 21.25% Efficient Cells

  • Can someone clarify the discrepancy between this record of 21.25% at cell level against the announcement last month from SolarCity of 22% at panel level (so cell level would be even higher)? Is this a record for p-type polycrystalline, while SolarCity and others (Panasonic, SunPower) are using n-type polycrystalline cells? This article has multiple examples of > 21.5%:

    • First this detail: SolarCity, SunPower and Panasonic are using n-type monocrystalline cells.

      The cells on a module are spaced by a tiny distance, perhaps 1 or 2 mm. Furthermore at the edges there is an aluminium frame, that does not generate power. Thirdly, monocrystalline cells are not perfect squares but have slightly rounded edges because they were cut from a circular ingot. And finally, the cells are located beneath a glass plate that reflects a tiny part of the light.

      All this lost area does count towards the module area, but does not generate power and thus lowers module efficiency.

      • Thanks, SolarCity using monocrystalline cells was the part I was missing.

  • Congratulations to Trina. Perhaps the nativists who think that Chinese firms are just copying or stealing technology will shut up for a while?

    Does anybody know if the textured surface improves off-axis performance? Standard efficiency measurements are made with perpendicular light, while a working panel handles sunlight at all incident angles. I have tried to nag experts into developing better metrics, with no success.

    • Without looking at their specific texturing I can’t say for sure, but in my experience, texturing significantly improves incident collection… often to a higher degree than it aides perpendicular light.

  • Going from 20% efficiency to 21% is a 5% improvement.

Comments are closed.