Konarka Reveals New Solar PV Prototype

While the efficiency of a solar photovoltaic (PV) product is a major factor in whether it gains market success or not, ultimately the price per watt is the most important figure. Although most solar PV companies have crystalline ambitions, others hold out the most promise for thin-film technologies. Massachusetts-based Konarka is one such company, and they recently announced some efficiency breakthroughs which they believe, coupled with low manufacturing costs, will put them ahead of the PV pack.

Lowell, Massachusetts – February 9, 2004 [] Konarka Technologies announced the company developed prototypes of its PV cells that have achieved more than seven percent efficiency. While certainly not an efficiency record compared to crystalline solar PV, Konarka said this threshold bodes well for the future success of their less expensive thin film approach. According to Konarka, Most solar cells currently in use are so-called “first generation” devices based on crystalline silicon wafers. “Second generation,” or thin film solar cells, use semiconductor materials only a few micrometers thick. The performance of a solar cell is measured in terms of its efficiency at turning light into electricity. The efficiencies for first generation cells have been around 15 percent; that is, about one-sixth of the light striking the cell gets converted into electricity. The efficiencies for second generation products that are being manufactured today range from three to seven percent. Konarka is focused on the development and commercialization of “third generation” cells that are lightweight, flexible and more versatile than previous generations of products. “Konarka’s chemistry-based cells represent a new breed of coatable, plastic, flexible photovoltaics that can be used in many applications where traditional photovoltaics can’t compete,” said Howard Berke, Chairman, Konarka Technologies. “We have now built functioning, full-size production cells that have achieved close to eight percent efficiency and we expect to exceed 10 percent in the coming months.” Konarka claims the company will be the first to manufacture and commercialize highly efficient, flexible photovoltaics. The company will have pilot-scale production later this year and begin scaling-up production capacity in 2005. “This breakthrough puts us on par with or in some cases exceeding second generation materials, but at lower cost and with more options in the product form factor,” said Daniel Patrick McGahn, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Konarka Technologies. “Konarka’s technical leadership along with its scalable manufacturing processes, opens the way for cost-effective, mass production of environment-friendly, photovoltaic products.” “Third generation cells, such as those in development at Konarka, are theoretically capable of achieving 20 to 25 percent, maybe even as much as 30 percent efficiency,” said Dr. Bill Beckenbaugh, President, Konarka Technologies. “Although there are other research laboratories that have approached 10 percent efficiency with third generation cells, those were lab-scale cells. In contrast, Konarka has been developing production size cells. That makes Konarka’s breakthrough significant.”