PV Cell Manufacturer Claims 20 Percent Efficiency

Solar Cell manufacturer SunPower Corporation has produced photovoltaic (PV) cells with an efficiency of more than 20 percent, the company announced Monday.

Sunnyvale, California – May 13, 2003 [] The cells were produced on a pilot line located in Round Rock, Texas in a facility adjacent to a manufacturing plant operated by Cypress Semiconductor Corporation, a major investor in SunPower. The company intends to increase production on the line to its 2 MW capacity this summer. The new, 125 mm, single-crystal cell, dubbed the A-300, owes its increased efficiency in part to its rear-contact design, which maximizes the working cell area, hides wires and makes automated production easier, according to the company. SunPower President and CEO, Dick Swanson said the National Renewable Energy Lab has certified the new cells at 20.4 percent efficiency, which helps create the most efficient cost-per-watt solution for PV once the cells have been built into modules and installed on the end users roof. “There is a whole downstream value created by efficiency,” Swanson said. “Our view is that there is a lot of value at having high efficiency.” The A-300 silicon solar cell delivers 3 kW in less than 17 square meters, allowing SunPower’s customers to trump the world’s best area-efficient construction designs. The A-300 solar cells are ideal for rooftop systems, communications, building integrated PV systems and consumer applications. Cypress Semiconductor Corporation is sharing its expertise in technology development and high-volume manufacturing with SunPower. SunPower is using a high-quality virgin silicon for the cells, which actually become more efficient the thinner they manufacture them because of the rear contact design. Swanson said there is no silicon degradation because they use n-type silicon. “SunPower cells have been used in a broad range of high-profile, high-performance products, including NASA’s Helios solar airplane, which set an altitude record of 96,863 feet in 2001,” Swanson said. “But our partnership with Cypress has been key in enabling our transition from a small scale solar supplier to a world-class manufacturer of solar cells for high-volume applications.” “Performance and cost is key to making solar power a commercial success,” said T.J. Rodgers, SunPower chairman, and president and CEO of Cypress Semiconductor Corporation. “The A-300 provides an entirely new class of cost-effective solutions to the clean energy industry.”