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First Solar Breaks Thin Film Module Conversion Efficiency Record, Reaching 18.6%

published: 2015-06-16 18:00

First Solar has set yet another world record for cadmium-telluride (CdTe) PV module conversion efficiency, achieving 18.6% aperture efficiency for an advanced full size module. With the new record, First Solar has proved that the CdTe module is more efficient than multi-si PV modules.

This 18.6% aperture area efficiency corresponds to a full area conversion efficiency of 18.2%, which easily beats the best recorded multi-crystalline Si PERC module with an approximate full area efficiency of 17.7% (based on 19.1% aperture efficiency and published module area data). The record has been measured and certified by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

This achievement is the eighth substantial update to CdTe record efficiency since 2011, continuing a disruptive and sustained trend of rapid performance improvements. In January, First Solar produced a research cell with 21.5% conversion efficiency, certified at the Newport Corporation’s Technology and Applications Center (TAC) PV Lab and confirmed by NREL.

“First Solar’s CdTe thin film is now rightly categorized as a high performance product,” said Raffi Garabedian, First Solar’s Chief Technology Officer. “We are now proving that CdTe thin film delivers both industry-leading performance AND sustainable thin-film cost structures.”

Garabedian emphasized that First Solar’s significant sustained investment in development of CdTe technology has enabled the company to meet or exceed its aggressive projections for improvements in research cells and modules, as well as commercialized technology. First Solar continues to harvest the upside available from its superior thin film technology so that it has successfully come up with CdTe modules that are more efficient than the best multi-crystalline Si modules.

Nick Strevel, First Solar’s Senior Manager of Technology, noted that efficiency combined with other real-world performance attributes result in First Solar technology delivering higher energy density than multi-crystalline Silicon (m-Si) solar panels. Given the same installed nameplate module capacity (Watts) with equivalent ground coverage ratio, he said, First Solar’s CdTe product will provide up to 8% more useable energy from the same land area than m-Si, which gives First Solar a competitive advantage over other PV technologies.

“Metrics with greater relevance to real-world conditions – including specific energy yield, energy density, cost/kWh and long term reliability – ultimately tell a much more comprehensive story of real-world performance and are more influential in reducing Levelized Cost of solar Electricity,” commented Strevel.

(Photo Credit: First Solar)

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