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First Solar Hits Record 21.5% Conversion Efficiency

Eric Wesoff's picture
Greentech Media

Prior to joining Greentech Media, Eric Wesoff founded Sage Marketing Partners in 2000 to provide sales and marketing-consulting services to venture-capital firms and their portfolio companies in...

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  • Feb 14, 2015 8:00 pm GMT

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First Solar crushes the previous CdTe cell efficiency record.

Last year at this time, First Solar crushed the conversion efficiency mark for cadmium telluride with a world record 20.4 percent.

That figure has been easily eclipsed a year later with a new record of 21.5 percent. And with that mark, First Solar now expects to exceed its 22 percent in 2015 target.

According to the firm, “The achievement places First Solar ahead of its established research cell roadmap, and validates CdTe’s continuing competitive advantage over traditional crystalline silicon technology.”

The research cell was built at the thin-film module builder and vertically integrated EPC’s Perrysburg, Ohio manufacturing factory and R&D Center. The company claims that the record-breaking cell was built “using processes and materials suitable for commercial-scale manufacturing.” The record has been documented at NREL.

Raffi Garabedian, First Solar’s CTO called out GE Global Research as one of the contributors to progress in efficiency. “The true value of improved cell efficiency comes from the translation of the science into commercially viable product with improved power output and energy density,” added Garabedian in a release.

First Solar has suggested that it can equal efficiencies of average c-Si modules by the end of 2015. The company believes it can hit ~19.5 percent efficiency in 2017. The firm also sees credible long-term paths to 23-percent-efficient and 25-percent-efficient CdTe cells.

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Hops Gegangen's picture
Hops Gegangen on Feb 14, 2015


Going from 20% to 22% doesn’t sound like much, but all things being equal, that would be a 10% improvement in energy capture and corresponding reduction in the time to break even. It’s like a 10% increase the owner’s profit margin, and it allows solar to move into more marginal areas.

But I stll want a more flexible form of solar — for example, so street light poles can have 100% solar surfaces and put power into the grid during the day, or store it in an internal battery for use at night. We have all sorts of surfaces exposed to the sun, not just roof tops. I want to go up to the south side of a big warehouse or big-box store and unroll long sheets of solar that are easy to attach. When I replace my vinyl siding, I want it to collect energy, but I don’t want it to be black.

I understand Hanergy is building a factory to make 300MW/yr of flexible solar.


Keith Pickering's picture
Keith Pickering on Feb 14, 2015

CdTe has a lot of advantages over silicon: it’s more efficient at capturing sunlight; it has the lowest environmental impact of any PV technology, including the lowest carbon footprint; and it has the highest EROI of any PV technology. Unfortunately, tellurium is a rare and expensive metal, so CdTe has a higher cost per Watt than silicon and it probably always will have. Which means we will probably never deploy much of it, in spite of its advantages.

Mark Heslep's picture
Mark Heslep on Feb 19, 2015

In the way that battery energy density is only one of the several requirements for an economic energy storage mechanism, so too conversion efficiency for PV for electricity generation.  Also important are temperature range,  cost of materials as Keith Pickering noted above, cost to manufacture, rate of degradation with time, and low light performance.  

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