Solar

Amonix Resets Bar for CPV Module Efficiency

Amonix has posted new record conversion efficiency numbers for its concentrated solar photovoltaic (CPV) module in outdoor testing, inching ever closer to a cost profile that would make CPV competitive with more mainstream solar technologies.

The new mark, measured in outdoor testing at NREL from late February to April, achieved an outdoor efficiency rating of 34.9 percent under “international standard operating conditions” for CPV: DNI of 900 W/m2, 20°C ambient temperature, and 2 m/s wind speed. Peak efficiency for the new CPV module touched 36.2 percent on March 14 under a DNI of 876 W/m2, ambient temperature of 16°C, and instantaneous wind speed of 1 m/s. Amonix’s previous records were 33.5 percent efficiency rating and a peak of 34.2 percent.

Amonix’s new record CPV modules use the same-generation ~40 percent efficient Spectrolab CPV cells as they have for the past two years, with a cell-to-module conversion efficiency exceeding 90 percent, according to Amonix founder and CTO Vahan Garboushian. (Earlier this month Spectrolab unveiled a 37.8 efficient multijunction cell but that was not CPV not under concentration.) Amonix also has further improvements underway “in cell efficiency and additional advances in our module technology,” he added.

Two months ago Amonix and Solar Junction formalized a partnership bringing together the current record-holders in CPV cell and module conversion efficiency: Amonix’s at-the-time 33.5-percent-efficient CPV module from May 2012, and Solar Junction’s 44-percent-efficient cells as of last October. This new record module efficiency mark using Spectrolab cells doesn’t change Amonix’s stance on pursuing that partnership for higher-performance CPV, according to an Amonix rep.

Improving CPV module efficiency from 30 percent to 35 percent (a 2017 target) would chop levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) of $2.95/W down to $2.29/W, according to Ed Cahill from Lux Research. Other solar PV technologies are pushing below $2/W but CPV can be competitive enough without getting down that low, he said.

Amonix, though, is “shooting much higher than that,” explained Vahan Garboushian, Amonix founder and CTO. A LCOE of $2.25/W (AC) ($1.70-$1.80/W DC) would be roughly equivalent to what flat-plate PV can do but generate much more energy in higher-DNI areas, he noted. And improving module efficiency to 40 percent modules, which he says should be the target for a 2016-2017 timeframe, could push the LCOE down to $1.30-$1.40/W. “We think CPV could be competitive much sooner than everyone else does.”

Lead image: Amonix CPV solar power system