The new efficiency was recorded on the companys 145 Watt copper indium gallium (di)selenide (CIGS) commercial modules, which are manufactured in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, at an annual capacity of 100 MW. The companys factory is expected to ramp up to 500 MW by the end of 2016. "We have the ability to accelerate the plan should market conditions improve," a spokesperson told pv magazine.
"This 145-watt module has the highest efficiency verified by NREL for a monolithically integrated CIGS module manufactured on a commercial production line, and exceeds the 140-watt module produced by Stion on its San Jose pilot line last August," said Stion in a statement released.
The spokesperson added that Stion is planning to soon reach efficiencies of 14 percent and that it expects "to announce test results for our Gen 2 ‘tandem junction’ technology."
Regarding manufacturing costs, the spokesperson said, "We are currently still in the early stages of our ramp [up], and do not have cost numbers that are meaningful because of the large amount of unabsorbed overhead. We expect to be under $1.00 per watt by the 2nd half of 2013, with long-term cost structure competitive to any silicon or thin-film company in the industry."
In the statement, Stion added that its first commercial module shipment was made this March, after receiving the ANSI/UL 1703 and IEC 61646 & 61730 certifications. The news comes a year after Stion, founded in 2006, started construction on its manufacturing facility.
Commenting on the milestone, Rommel Noufi, lead researcher for thin film cells at NREL, said, "Achieving 14.8 percent efficiency using a large-area production process indicates that Stion is continuing to make significant innovations in CIGS technology that are reproducible and scalable."
Having secured US$130 million worth of equity investment from Korean investors last December, the company also intends to set up a subsidiary in Korea along with its strategic partner, Korean flat panel display and photovoltaic equipment company Avaco, and will build a thin film production line there to serve both the Asian and European markets. At the time, the company said it would invest $35 million of its own funds into Stion Korea.
The spokesperson further told pv magazine that Avaco will provide the necessary equipment for the new facility. It is still too early to disclose other details, however, regarding capacity and timeframes.
In its recent "Thin Film 2012 2016" report, GTM Research stated that Stion has had some success in raising funds through various technology partnerships and VC deals. In addition to its Korean venture, the company licensed its CIGS technology to TSMC Solar also in December 2011, for $50 million.
The report continued, "Equity infusion and interest from TSMC/AVACO is good news, but it remains unclear as to whether the company can compete with commoditized c-Si."
Currently, over 80 percent of Stion’s product shipments are in the U.S. "This mix will diversify over time to include India, Europe, Asia and Middle East, " concluded the spokesperson.