First Solar Reports Thin-Film PV Cell Breakthrough

Arizona-based solar photovoltaic (PV) system provider First Solar in August said it had achieved a cadmium-telluride (CdTe) PV research cell conversion efficiency of 21%—a world record.

The thin-film PV cell’s efficiency compares to the previous CdTe record of 20.4% conversion efficiency, which was set by First Solar in February of 2014, and represents the seventh substantial update to CdTe record efficiency since 2011.

And, significantly, it means First Solar’s CdTe research cell efficiency ranks at the top for all thin-film PV technologies, above copper indium gallium diselenide–based solar cells at 20.9%, and above multicrystalline silicon, which peaked at 20.4% in 2004. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has charted the progression of the best research cell efficiencies since 1975 (see http://1.usa.gov/1BgiqOG).

First Solar’s thin-film cell was developed at the company’s Perrysburg, Ohio, manufacturing factory and Research & Development Center, and its efficiency was certified at the Newport Corp.’s Technology and Applications Center PV Lab. The company’s chief technology officer, Raffi Garabedian, said the development notably demonstrates that record cells are based on the “same scalable manufacturing processes and commodity materials that we have proven through years of volume production.”

First Solar last March revealed in a technology roadmap that it is anticipating a 22% research cell efficiency milestone in 2015.

—Sonal Patel is a POWER associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)