First Solar, Inc.(Nasdaq: FSLR) announced it set a new world record for cadmium-telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic (PV) solar cell conversion efficiency, achieving 18.7 percent cell efficiency in tests confirmed by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The record-setting cell was constructed at the Company's Perrysburg, Ohio factory and R&D center using processes and materials — including the glass substrate — that are designed for commercial-scale manufacturing.
"This achievement showcases the huge potential of CdTe compared to other PV technologies and highlights the performance gains we continue to achieve thanks to our consistent and strong investment in R&D," said Raffi Garabedian, First Solar's Chief Technology Officer. "We are confident the advanced technologies and processes we developed for this record-setting cell will further enhance the performance of our future production modules and power plants."
First Solar has continued to transfer its success in the R&D lab into its commercial modules, increasing its average production module efficiency to 12.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, up 0.7 percentage points from 12.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011. The Company's lead line was producing modules with 13.1 percent efficiency during the fourth quarter, up from 12.6 percent in the same period a year ago.
Since it began commercial production in 2002, First Solar has produced more than 90 million of its advanced thin-film solar modules with a capacity of over 7 gigawatts (GW), enough to provide clean electricity for approximately 3.5 million homes and displace 4.7 million metric tons of CO2 annually, based on world averages. If laid end-to-end, the modules would circle the equator nearly three times. First Solar utilizes a continuous manufacturing process which transforms a sheet of glass into a complete solar module in less than 2.5 hours, contributing to the industry-leading energy payback time and low carbon footprint of systems using First Solar PV modules.