Solar Frontier explains that the efficiency was achieved at its research laboratory in Atsugi, Japan, in cooperation with the countrys New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).
"This efficiency achievement marks a major milestone on the road toward equaling or surpassing the performance of polycrystalline silicon cells with mass-production CIS modules," explains Satoru Kuriyagawa, chief technology officer at Solar Frontier.
He continues: "We constantly apply the technological advances made in Atsugi to mass production through our integrated research and production framework, which includes a pilot plant equipped with the machines on which our gigawatt-scale Kunitomi plants machinery is based.
"As we improve conversion efficiency in our labs, these achievements will be applied to our production modules so we can continue to provide our customers with ever higher performance thin film CIS modules."
When asked if the company expects to be able to mass produce modules with this higher efficiency soon, a spokesperson tells pv magazine: "Our production roadmap is to lead the thin film industry in the high-volume category. Now that we are in commercial production, we are focused on what we are in the process of marketing and selling now, which is currently in the 10 to 12 percent range. Our scientists at Atsugi Research Centre are constantly improving the rate at which we transfer our technology from champion cells."
How confident is the company that thin film efficiencies can be increased to such an extent on a commercial scale? "It is important to realize that Atsugi Research Centers work is applied to mass production – it uses a pilot plant equipped with the machines on which our gigawatt-scale Kunitomi plants machinery is based," replies the spokesperson.
"As we improve conversion efficiency in our labs, these achievements will be applied to our production modules so we can continue to provide our customers with ever higher performance thin film CIS modules. This is how we produce larger panels with higher efficiency and yield; we use an integrated research and production framework. We focus on two key areas increasing the efficiency of our panels and improving our mass production technology."
The new record surpasses Solar Frontiers previous achievement of 16.3 percent, which was set in September, 2010. The company adds that details of the 17.2 percent achievement will be made available at the 37th IEEE Photovoltaic Specialist Conference, scheduled to be held June 19 to 24 at the Washington State Convention Center, Seattle, Washington.
The companys modules are currently manufactured at its Kunitomi plant, which started commercial production this February.