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6 August 2014

First Solar fabricates record 21.0%-efficient thin-film PV cell

First Solar Inc of Tempe, AZ, USA has set a record for cadmium telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic (PV) research cell conversion efficiency of 21.0%, as certified at the Technology and Applications Center (TAC) PV Lab of Newport Corp. The cell was fabricated at First Solar’s manufacturing factory and Research & Development Center in Perrysburg, OH, using processes and materials designed for commercial-scale manufacturing. The record has been documented in the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) ‘Best Research Cell Efficiencies’ reference chart.

This certified result exceeds the previous CdTe record of 20.4%, set by First Solar in February, and represents the seventh substantial increase in record CdTe efficiency since 2011. It also places First Solar’s CdTe research cell efficiency above the 20.9% efficiency of copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) solar cells, and well above that of multi-crystalline silicon (mSi), which peaked at 20.4% in 2004.

“We have just begun to reveal the true unrealized potential of CdTe PV,” believes chief technology officer Raffi Garabedian. “Our Advanced Research team continues to deliver extraordinary results by creating practical devices capable of commercial-scale production,” he adds. “Not only have we have now demonstrated the highest single-junction thin-film cell on record but, just as important, our record cells are based on the same scalable manufacturing processes and commodity materials that we have proven through years of volume production.”

Garabedian notes that, while competing technologies are using increasingly costly materials and cell processes in order to deliver moderate performance gains, First Solar is establishing a rapid path to industry-leading energy densities, while simultaneously improving manufacturing metrics.

“Our significant investment in development of CdTe thin-film technology has enabled a rapid rate of improvement and gives us tremendous confidence in the future,” says Markus Gloeckler, VP for Advanced Research. “We have made outstanding improvements in all aspects of our thin-film solar cells and are aggressively pursuing the commercialization of these advanced technologies in our product,” he adds.

At an analyst briefing in March, First Solar presented a technology roadmap anticipating a research cell efficiency of 22% in 2015. The latest announcement indicates First Solar is steadily tracking to achieve that goal ahead of schedule.

First Solar says that it has continued to transfer its success in the R&D lab into its commercially produced modules, increasing its average production module efficiency to 14.0% in second-quarter 2014, up 0.5% from Q1 and up 0.7% from 2013. At the end of second-quarter 2014, the firm’s lead line was producing modules with average efficiency of 14.1%.

See related items:

First Solar raises CdTe solar cell efficiency record to 20.4%, matching multi-crystalline silicon record

First Solar and GE announce technology and commercial partnership to speed CdTe PV module development

Tags: First Solar Thin-film photovoltaic CdTe

Visit: www.firstsolar.com

Visit: www.nrel.gov/ncpv/images/efficiency_chart.jpg

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