Solar Frontier hits 22.3% on CIGS cell

Record cell and module efficiencies continue to be achieved across the PV technology spectrum. Solar Frontier is the latest company to achieve a record, producing a 22.3% CIGS cell, in partnership with the Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization.

The previous thin film world record cell was also achieved with a CIGS semiconductor, by Germany’s Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research (ZSW), in Stuttgart. The previous record was achieved in September 2014, also on a 0.5cm² cell. The ZSW partners with German equipment provider Manz, although Manz is expected to announce changes to its CIGS program at an analyst day on December 10.

“This is the first time that CIS has crossed the 22% efficiency boundary – a level not yet surpassed by any other thin-film or multi-crystalline silicon technology,” said Satoru Kuriyagawa, Chief Technology Officer of Solar Frontier. “We achieved our latest record through improvements to the CIS absorber layer and junction formation process. This latest advancement brings us a step closer toward realizing Solar Frontier’s long-term goal of exceeding 30% efficiency using CIS.” Solar Frontier refers to its technology as CIS, despite the presence of gallium in its semiconductor stack.

While efficiency increases on small laboratory cells is important to push CIGS and PV technology forward, translating these efficiency gains to full size modules will present challenges. Solar Frontier had previously achieved a 20.9% cell efficiency record in April 2014.

Solar Frontier is currently ramping production at its new 150 MW Tohoku fab in Japan’s Miyahi Prefecture. In October CEO Atsuhiko Hirano released production cost goals at the fab, for the first time. Hirano said that production cost reductions to between $0.50/W and as low as $0.30/W have been targeted at the fab, which employs a range of new approaches to turning out its CIGS modules. Not only does the production employ fewer stages and a smaller footprint, Solar Frontier says that production time has been reduced from 24 hours to only eight hours.

“Solar Frontier is proud to be a technology leader in the solar energy industry,” said Atsuhiko Hirano, CEO of Solar Frontier, while commenting on the latest efficiency achievement. “Increasing conversion efficiency is a key component in driving down the total lifetime cost of solar energy for homeowners and businesses.”

Solar Frontier’s most recent module efficiency record was announced back in June 2013, with 14.6%, although the company informs pv magazine that progress at its Kunitomi production site has made increases on that since.