First Solar sets new cadmium telluride thin-film cell efficiency record at 22.1%

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This morning First Solar announced that it has set its latest efficiency record for cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film solar PV, with a 22.1% efficient cell as verified by Newport Corporation. The new record cell was built at the company’s factory and research center in the U.S. state of Ohio, and First Solar says that it used processes and materials suitable for commercial-scale manufacturing.

This is First Solar’s 9th new CdTe efficiency record since 2011, and bests a 21.5% cell efficiency record set in 2015.

“We are tracking very closely to a technology roadmap we first presented in 2013 and revised upward in March 2014,” said First Solar Chief Technology Officer Raffi Garabedian. “At that time, we said we’d hit a 22 percent research cell efficiency milestone by the end of 2015. We’ve delivered on that promise.”

First Solar also notes that its lead manufacturing lines were producing PV modules with 16.4% conversion efficiency during Q4 2015. CdTe and other thin film modules offer a higher yield per watt than standard crystalline silicon, particularly in hot climates, making them increasingly competitive.

However, First Solar and CdTe also face competition from other thin-film technologies. Despite a strong lead in earlier years by copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS or CIS), CIGS and CdTe efficiency records have been running neck and neck for the last two years.

CIGS still holds the upper hand in the lab, with Solar Frontier setting the world record for thin-film solar cells without concentration at 22.3% using its CIS technology.

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