United Solar, a wholly owned subsidiary of Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. (ECD) (NASDAQ:ENER) and manufacturer of UNI-SOLAR® brand photovoltaic (PV) laminates, today announced that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has confirmed an initial 12% conversion efficiency of a large-area solar cell using UNI-SOLAR’s proprietary Nano-Crystalline™ silicon. To date, this is the highest large-area cell efficiency confirmed by NREL for thin-film silicon PV technology.
United Solar has worked with NREL for more than two decades in the research and development of advanced thin-film PV technologies. “I am extremely impressed with United Solar’s recent breakthrough in efficiency in thin-film silicon photovoltaics,” said Dr. Ryne Raffaelle, Director of the National Center for Photovoltaics at NREL. “United Solar has been the unquestioned leader in their field and one of the few PV companies in the world that can offer a true building integrated photovoltaic product. I am very excited about our continued collaborations.”
The record-setting cell efficiency with an area of 400 square centimeters was encapsulated in UNI-SOLAR’s proprietary thin-film polymer. UNI-SOLAR’s triple-junction technology incorporates Nano-Crystalline silicon layers on a flexible stainless steel substrate and increases the cell’s efficiency by about 50%, relative to current UNI-SOLAR cells in production.
“This is a substantial milestone for our company as we continue to execute on the technology roadmap we communicated in 2010,” said Dr. Subhendu Guha, Chairman of United Solar and Executive Vice President of Photovoltaic Technology, Energy Conversion Devices. “This world record efficiency was achieved under the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar America Initiative Program led by United Solar with participation from NREL and associated universities.”
United Solar’s technology roadmap takes this ground-breaking technology into commercial production in 2012. The technological advancement drives meaningful reductions in the cost of installing a UNI-SOLAR solar energy system and will reduce the cost of generating solar electricity by over 20%. Ultimately, the company expects to offer solar energy systems that are capable of providing electricity at a cost below the utility grid.