In a year that has seen a large number of cell and module efficiency world records toppled, it is encouraging to see efficiency for a practical size crystalline silicon PV cell pass 26%. The record was achieved by Japanese company Kaneka Corporation during the Development of High-Performance and Reliable PV Modules to Reduce LCOE project by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).
The previous record for this particular technology was 25.6%, so this is a big jump up in efficiency, which goes some way to showing how far this technology might be able to go. The cell was measured by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems, which is known to provide certified measurement of solar cells.
A joint report, published by NEDO and Kaneka, wrote that the result was achieved by means of a combination of heterojunction technology using high-quality amorphous silicon, low resistance electrode technology, and a back-contact structure that captures more solar energy.
Another efficiency record for silicon cell technology was broken in June by SunPower, who managed to achieve a module efficiency of 24.1% in a module that used laboratory cells from SunPowers X-Series modules. Moving over to a different PV technology, ZSW registered a thin film solar cell efficiency world record of 22.6% using CIGS technology.
Kaneka is not known as a major player in the solar module manufacturing business, but, with this record, it has said it plans on commercializing the cells for practical use, with the eventual goal of dramatically reducing the cost of power generation using solar technology.
Needless to say, with higher efficiencies less space is required to generate the same amount of energy from solar power, which means the development of higher efficiency cells could mean the introduction of solar in places with space restrictions. It should also bring the price of energy generation down, with Kaneka striving to achieve targets of having electric power generation from solar as low as 14 yen (USD 0.138) per kWh in 2020 and just 7 yen (USD 0.069) per kWh in 2030.