By Isabella Kaminski
First Solar has achieved 17.3% cadmium-telluride (CdTe) solar PV cell efficiency with a test cell constructed using commercial-scale manufacturing equipment and materials, which it claims is a new world record.
The test cell's performance, confirmed by the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), far surpassed the previous record of 16.7% set in 2001.
Dave Eaglesham, Chief Technology Officer at First Solar, says: "This is a significant milestone that demonstrates the ongoing potential of our advanced thin-film technology. This leap forward in R&D supports our efficiency roadmap for our production modules and will recalibrate industry expectations for the long-term efficiency potential of CdTe technology."
The average efficiency of First Solar modules produced in the first quarter of 2011 was 11.7%, up from 11.1% a year earlier, and the company has recorded full-module efficiencies over 13.5%, with a 13.4% module confirmed by NREL. First Solar is aiming for production module efficiencies of 13.5-14.5% by the end of 2014.
First Solar uses a continuous manufacturing process which transforms a sheet of glass into a complete solar module in less than two and a half hours.