Solar PV firm sets new world record for solar efficiency

17 Jan 2012

Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels in operation in the US

With the World Future Energy Summit taking place in Abu Dhabi this week, US company First Solar has just revealed that it has set a new world record for cadmium-telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic (PV) solar module efficiency.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) has confirmed the record, which saw First Solar achieve 14.4pc total area efficiency, bypassing the past record of 13.4pc, which was also set by the company.

First Solar’s chief technology officer Dave Eaglesham made the announcement this morning in Abu Dhabi.

The company manufactures advanced thin-film modules using semiconductor technology. Via its manufacturing process First Solar is able to transform a sheet of glass into a complete solar module in less than 2.5 hours.

Six months ago First Solar bypassed the world record for CdTe solar cell efficiency with a mark of 17.3pc. Eaglesham said today that the cell and module record were both set at the company’s Perrysburg, Ohio factory.

“These records also underscore the tremendous ongoing potential of CdTe compared to silicon-based technologies,” he said this morning.

First Solar employees pictured holding the company's record-breaking 14.4pc efficient module, manufactured in Perrysburg, Ohio
First Solar employees pictured holding the company’s record-breaking 14.4pc efficient module, manufactured in Perrysburg, Ohio

But what exactly are cell and module efficiencies? Cell efficiency measures the proportion of light converted to energy in a single solar cell. Meanwhile, total area module efficiency measures light conversion across a production-size, multi-cell solar module.

Eaglesham said module efficiency provides a more realistic assessment of real-world performance than cell or aperture-area efficiency.

The World Future Energy Summit itself started yesterday in Abu Dhabi and will run until 19 January. It will cover issues such as advancing future energy, energy efficiency and clean technologies by engaging business, industry, academic and finance leaders at the summit.


Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic