Solar Cell Receives Prestigious Award

A solar PV cell that uses concentrators is among the year’s 100 most significant technologies selected by Research & Development Magazine.

LOS ANGELES, California, US, 2001-08-28 [SolarAccess.com] A solar PV cell that uses concentrators is among the year’s 100 most significant technologies selected by Research & Development Magazine. The cell was designed and built by Spectrolab, Inc., and its efficiency in converting sunlight into electricity provides the cell with the potential to be competitive with conventional electricity generation technologies in the future. The triple-junction terrestrial concentrator solar cell has achieved a record conversion efficiency of 34 percent in laboratory tests, which makes it the first to exceed the goal of the Department of Energy ‘One-Third-of-a-Sun’ initiative. The solar cell employs a three-layered structure that is effective in capturing and converting solar spectrum. Each of the three junctions captures and converts a different portion of the solar spectrum. Spectrolab, a Los Angeles company that was bought by Boeing last year, has already received an order from Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest electric utility, for 140 kilowatts of terrestrial concentrator receivers using triple-junction solar cells. Spectrolab shares the magazine’s award with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, DOE’s premier laboratory for renewable energy research. The two groups applied jointly for the award and have collaborated on advanced solar cell technologies since the mid-1990s. NREL validated the 34 percent efficiency of the Spectrolab solar cells. Another key feature of the solar cells is their ability to withstand the energy of highly concentrated sunlight. Using concentrated sunlight reduces the number of cells needed to generate power, which lowers the cost per watt represented by solar cells. At 400 suns concentration and with megawatt-scale production, officials estimate the PV cells could be manufactured for less than US$1 per watt. In addition, the capability of Spectrolab’s cells to operate at higher solar concentrations allows for further cost reduction, approaching 50 cents per watt. This has the potential to make such concentrator systems cost-competitive with conventional power generation.
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