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ECN & REC Hit 17% Efficiency with Multicrystalline Solar Panel

Energy Research Centere of the Netherlands (ECN) has made the world's first multicrystalline silicon solar panel with 17% efficiency. The full findings will be reported in the January 2010 issue of the journal "Progress in Photovoltaics" and represents a 1.5% improvement over the previous 15–year old listing of 15.5% efficiency held by Sandia National Labs.

ECN has been in competition with others to overtake this record. Several efficiency records have been claimed in the past 6 months, with the highest so far reported to be an efficiency of 16.5%. The new record of 17% sets a new standard of efficiency for multicrystalline silicon. The world record was made possible by using the highest quality multicrystalline silicon solar wafers from REC’s latest mass production lines in Norway.

ECN produced the solar cells and solar panel, using its new manufacturing process based on a cell design with all contacts on the rear of the cell. The panel is made using industrial-scale equipment for interconnection and encapsulation of rear-contact cells made in ECN’s pilotline.

ECN’s rear-contact technology is based on the so-called metallization wrap-through technology (MWT) which includes making holes in the wafers prior to cell processing. In the MWT technology, the front electrode is “wrapped through” small vias in the cells, and contacted at the rear so that the front bus bars can be removed and less sunshine is reflected from the front of the panel.

”We are extremely pleased that our efforts in wafer technology development have taken us to a leadership position in the industry. Our previous joint REC/ECN record measurement was at 16.4 percent efficiency, and significant effort has gone into reaching the 17 percent milestone” said Erik Sauar, REC’s SVP of technology & CTO.

The performance measurement result was recently officially confirmed by European Solar Test Installation (ESTI). The efficiency level was a result of a joint effort where the record wafers were provided by REC, while ECN made the cells and assembled the world record panel. The measurements were done under Standard Test Conditions and represent aperture area efficiency.

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