TSMC hits 15% module efficiency

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In less than 12 months, TSMC has been able to achieve almost a 1% increase in its module efficiencies, at its fab in Taichung, Taiwan. Its announcement of 15.1% monolithic module efficiency trumps more established thin film manufacturers’ efficiencies.

The gains made by TSMC in a relatively short stretch of time is most impressive, considering the slow-but-steady efficiency gains made by manufacturers with a longer history with CIGS. The world’s biggest CIGS manufacturer Japan’s Solar Frontier, reported to pv magazine in December 2012 that it is producing modules with an efficiency of 13%, and an aperture efficiency of over 14%.

Meanwhile, CIGS equipment supplier Manz, which operates the former Würth Solar manufacturing facility as an innovation line reported module efficiencies of 14.6% in September 2012, with an aperture efficiency of 15.9%. And Hanergy owned MiaSolé has achieved a 15.5% aperture efficiency on a flex module, however it is worth noting that MiaSolé deposits it CIGS "stack" onto stainless steel that is then cut into cells, which differs from a monolithic deposition process, as achieved by TSMC Solar.

TSMC uses CIGS technology licensed from U.S. manufacturer Stion. When pv magazine visited Stion in July 2012, it reported modules rolling of its Mississippi fab at a rough average efficiency of 12.5% and a champion module of 13.4%. Stion is developing a hetrojunction – tandem – CIGS cell, which it hopes will deliver vast efficiency improvements on top of this. In December, Stion reported to pv magazine that it has achieved 18.8% tandem cell efficiencies.

"Our champion modules now have comparable module efficiency to mainstream multi-crystalline silicon modules, demonstrating TSMC Solar’s ability to realize the high-efficiency potential of our CIGS technology," said Ying-Chen Chao, President of TSMC Solar, in a statement announcing the efficiency achievement.

"Our technology’s superior competitiveness comes from its high efficiency, excellent high temperature performance and intrinsic cost structure advantages," he added.

TSMC’s fab is tooled for 100 MW of production, however pv magazine understands that it is operating at only a fraction of that, holding off on plans to ramp until market conditions improve.

TSMC Solar is a fully owned subsidiary of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, which has a market capitalization of around $90 billion.