First Solar breaks CdTe PV solar module efficiency record

First Solar this week announced that it has set a new world record for cadmium-telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic (PV) solar module efficiency.

The US company said it had achieved a 14.4pc total area efficiency, up from the previous record of 13.4pc, which was also set by First Solar.

The US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) confirmed the record.

Six months, ago, the company broke the record for CdTe solar cell efficiency with a new mark of 17.3pc. First Solar said both the cell and module record-setters were constructed using commercial-scale manufacturing equipment and materials at the company’s Perrysburg, Ohio factory.

Cell efficiency measures the proportion of light converted to energy in a single solar cell, while total area module efficiency measures light conversion across a production-size, multi-cell solar module, providing a more realistic assessment of real-world performance than cell or aperture-area efficiency.

“This considerable achievement supports our module efficiency roadmap and demonstrates our ability to convert our record-cell technology into ongoing module-level improvements,” said Dave Eaglesham, First Solar’s chief technology officer. “These records also underscore the tremendous ongoing potential of CdTe compared to silicon-based technologies.”

In December 2011, First Solar updated its module efficiency roadmap to the increased goal of 14.5pc to 15pc average efficiency for its production modules by the end of 2015. It said the process improvements developed for the record-setting cell and module continue to be implemented as part of that roadmap.

The average efficiency of First Solar modules increased from 11.4pc in 2010 to 11.7pc in 2011 and the company said it expects the average to reach 12.7pc in the fourth quarter of this year.

“Our continuous investment in R&D has enabled the steady progress of our technology, punctuated by landmark achievements such as this,” saidMike Ahearn, chairman and interim CEO of First Solar. “Our consistent progress gives us confidence in our ability to achieve our roadmap goals, drive down costs and develop sustainable markets.”

First Solar has so far manufactured more than 5 GW of its advanced thin-film modules. It uses a continuous manufacturing process that transforms a sheet of glass into a complete solar module in less than 2.5 hours, which contributes to the company’s energy payback time and the low carbon footprint of systems using its PV modules.

Grainne Rothery

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