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Solar Cell Efficiencies Continue To Rise

With PV, efficiency matters and that's why manufactures constantly race to improve the efficiency of their cells. More efficient cells allow PV cell makers to increase the capacity of their manufacturing plants without expanding their operations, keeping costs down.

MiaSolé, a manufacturer of copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) thin-film PV solar panels, this week announced that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) independently confirmed an efficiency of 15.7% for its large area production modules, which are about 1 square meter in size.

The 15.7 % module efficiency follows the 14.3% efficiency that was announced in September and MiaSolé said that this is the highest efficiency demonstrated for commercial size thin-film modules; effectively closing the gap with polycrystalline silicon module efficiencies.

"This is a significant accomplishment as it represents the ability to manufacture full scale CIGS modules with efficiencies equal to or better than that of polycrystalline silicon modules available in the world today but manufactured at a thin-film cost structure,” said Dr. Joseph Laia, CEO of MiaSolé.

The company had previously announced that it would start shipping its 13% efficiency modules in the second quarter of 2011 upon completion of UL and IEC certifications.

MiaSolé said it will ship 22 MW in 2010. The company's products are designed for utilities and independent power producers to use in industrial scale deployments such as large-scale rooftop and ground mount installations.

Boeing Now Holds Record for Most Efficient Terrestrial Solar Cell

Last week, the Boeing Company announced that Spectrolab, a wholly owned subsidiary, has started mass production of its newest terrestrial solar cell, the C3MJ+. With an average conversion efficiency of 39.2 percent, Boing said that the C3MJ+ will be the industry’s highest-efficiency cell.

The concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) cells are an improvement on the C3MJ cells currently in production, which convert 38.5 percent of the sun’s rays into energy.

Spectrolab is a supplier of multi-junction photovoltaic solar cells, solar panels, searchlights and solar simulators and recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Spectrolab products have powered satellites since 1958 and have contributed to the on-orbit success of numerous commercial, national security, and civil space missions, said the company.

"These more efficient cells are drawing interest from a number of current and potential customers," said Russ Jones, Spectrolab director of CPV Business Development. "Last year we set a new world record for efficiency with a test cell that peaked at 41.6 percent. We now have entered production with essentially this same technology and plan to deliver the first of these 39.2 percent efficiency cells in January."

For more on the importance of solar cell efficiency, check out Jennifer Kho's What's Behind Record-Breaking Solar Cell Efficiencies, Part I and Part 2.

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