Solar Frontier claims 17.8% aperture efficiency

In announcing the result, Chief Technology Officer Satoru Kuriyagawa said that the processes used are "very similar" to those used at its commercial production facilities. "Even higher efficiencies can be achieved by using a device with a very small surface area, but the reason we prefer to focus on the submodule level is that the path to commercial production is more practical," said Kuriyagawa in a statement announcing the result.

Solar Frontier produces the bulk of its CIGS modules – which the company refers to as CIS – at its new Kunitomi plant, and claims to have recently produced a champion module with 14.5 percent aperture efficiency, which translates to 13.38 percent module efficiency.

In its recent report into the CIGS market and technology, Lux Research wrote that efficiency gains would be key if CIGS technology were to be successful. "Since efficiency of modules dictates installation footprint in applications and hence system prices, the adoption of CIGS modules in residential, commercial, and utility applications will be a function of how effectively their conversion efficiency matches or comes close to mc-Si and c-Si modules."

The report continued that average CIGS module efficiency ranges between 10 percent and 11 percent, compared to mc-Si modules with 14.5 percent and 15.5 percent. "First Solar’s CdTe modules measure 11.6 percent on average today," the report added. As is evident then, Solar Frontier’s modules average somewhere between CdTe and mc-Si and higher than average CIGS performance.

The potential for further efficiency gains are deemed to be another reason CIGS technology may be attractive, reported Lux Research. German research body Zentrum fur Sonnenenergie-und Wasserstoff-Forschung (ZSW), has demonstrated a cell efficiency of 20.3 percent. The ZSW is currently in a research-and-development partnership with equipment supplier Manz and module manufacturer Würth Solar – the latter was fully acquired by Manz at the beginning of this year. Manz claimed a world record module efficiency record of 15.1 percent for its 600 by 1200mm module, midway through 2011.

pv magazine (12/2011) recently ran a feature article on the CIGS technology and market and will feature a guest article from Manz automation on the potential of CIGS in the forthcoming April edition of the magazine.