First Solar achieves world record conversion efficiency

Thin-film PV array of CdTe solar modules manufactured by First Solar (photo: Wikipedia)

First Solar, Inc., a global provider of PV solar systems based in Tempe (AZ), USA, has announced that it has set a world record for cadmium-telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic module conversion efficiency, achieving 18.6% aperture efficiency for an advanced full size module. For the first time ever, First Solar has demonstrated a record module that is more efficient than the best multi-crystalline module recorded. The record has been measured and certified by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

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).

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 CTO. "At one time, we might have been characterized as a low cost, low efficiency technology, but consistent with our technology projections we are now proving that CdTe thin film delivers both industry-leading performance AND sustainable thin-film cost structures. While silicon technologies have approached their theoretical efficiency entitlement and leveled out in terms of performance and cost, First Solar continues to harvest the upside available from its superior thin film technology. Our CdTe modules are now more efficient than the best multi-crystalline Si modules, and we still have a great deal of technology head room for further innovation."

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