Solar Junction has announced a Concentrated PhotoVoltaic (CPV) cell with an efficiency rating of 43.5% – that’s better than Jimmer Fredette’s efficiency on three-pointers.
Now it needs to be mentioned here that the CPV market isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. The announcement came along with a new funding round. The most recent announcement of CPV delivery is a mere 1 megawatt in New Mexico.
The problem lies in turning cells into systems. With a standard panel it’s pretty simple – you find a roof and connect to the grid. With a thin film system, you can just lay it in the Sun like you’re spreading a picnic blanket. CPV devices need to be part of scaled systems, preferably in places where there is a log of Sun. This reduces the market potential, and increases the cost, because now you’re talking about permitting, about acquiring a lot of land, etc. etc. etc.
But still. 43.5%?
Silicon solar panels are usually rated at 15% efficiency or below, and thin film is a little better than half that. If you can deploy 43.5% efficiency in quantity, you’ve got something. You’re delivering more power with a smaller real estate footprint.
Solar Junction’s technology is called A-SLAM– Adjustable Spectrum Lattice Matched. It can be tuned to maximize the amount of sunlight within a module. The company claims its “ultra-concentration tunnel junctions” (hence the corporate name) allow it to efficiently harvest electricity in hot sunny places.
Turning what works in the lab into high-energy solar furnaces on the desert floor is the trick. So of more import to Solar Junction, and its competitors, than the latest scientific breakthrough is a bill now moving through the California legislature that would let developers pay mitigation fees in order to fast-track permits. Activists have stalled many California projects (something I mentioned recently) with environmental objections. This would pay for objections later deemed valid while projects move forward.
Solar Junction now hopes to be ramp up to 250 megawatts worth of power per year and start manufacturing next year with Energy Department loan guarantees.