ECN Reaches 16.4% Efficiency with Multicrystalline Solar PV

Researchers at the Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) said that they have achieved a premium conversion efficiency of 16.4% (aperture area) on a full-size solar module, a new world-record efficiency for photovoltaic (PV) modules with multicrystalline silicon solar cells. The previous world-record was held by Sandia National Laboratory, at 15.5% aperture-area efficiency.

Modules with aperture-area efficiencies beyond 16% were manufactured using solar cells made from wafers supplied by REC Wafer Norway and Deutsche Solar. The record was achieved using industrial-scale equipment for interconnection and encapsulation of rear-contact cells. This equipment was provided by the Dutch equipment builder Eurotron.

Solar cell manufacturer Solland Solar will be the first to use the technology in commercial production, later this year. The research and development has been financed by the European Commission through the CrystalClear project and by the Dutch government through SenterNovem.

ECN has developed the new module design and manufacturing process based on a solar cell design with all contacts on the rear. ECN’s rear-contact technology is based on metallization wrap-through (MWT) solar cells, which are interconnected in modules using conductive adhesives and a patterned conductive foil.

This has similarities with surface mounting of electronic components on a printed circuit board. In MWT cells the front electrode is “wrapped through” small vias in the cell, so that it can be contacted at the rear, in parallel with the rear-side electrode.

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