First Solar, Inc., (Tempe, AZ) announced that it has manufactured 4 gigawatts (GW) of thin-film photovoltaic solar modules since beginning commercial production in 2002. That’s enough solar electricity to power around two million households. The company also announced that its second factory at Frankfurt an der Oder, Germany, has begun producing solar modules one month ahead of schedule. The four new production lines are still expected to ramp to full production during the third quarter of 2011, bringing annual capacity at the two Frankfurt factories to more than 500 megawatts. Stephan Hansen, managing director of First Solar GmbH, said at a press conference that the company is “the largest manufacturer of thin film modules in the world. Our manufacturing capacity is more than 1.75GW. We’ve announced expansion to more than 2.8GW by 2012.”
Also at the show, San Jose-based SunPower Corp. launched its E20 series of solar panels, the industry’s first commercially-available solar panels to achieve total area efficiencies of 20 percent or more.
The new 96-cell E20 solar panels are available in 333-watt and 327-watt models for rooftop installations and feature the company’s 22.4 percent efficient all-back contact Maxeon™ cell technology. This gives the company the world record for efficiency among commercially available, mass-produced solar cells. Jörn Jürgens, general manager and managing director of component sales at SunPower GmbH said that they had been continuously improving the cell technology in the last year, and also changed the glass, encapsulant and backsheet materials. “We were able to both enhance the performance of the modules, and also enable them to be connected to transformerless invertors,” he said.
Kudos to both First Solar and SunPower for their success by pioneering outside the bounds of conventional crystalline silicon.