Solar cell efficiency set to double

Universities and research institutes are making fast progress in research to enhance solar cell efficiency. For example, Stanford University is working on Photon Enhanced Thermion Emission (PETE) that can double solar cell efficiency. Some other projects are near commercial launch with efficiency rates in the 30-40% range.

High solar PV project costs, high cell/module production costs and increasing land acquisition costs are key factors driving solar cell manufacturer’s research on solar cell/module efficiency enhancement. The R&D activities to improve solar cell/ module efficiencies have been yielding better results year on year. The first generation technologies (crystalline solar cells) are leading the solar PV industry followed by second generation technologies (thin film solar cells) in terms of cell conversion efficiency. It is now anticipated that research in second and third generation technologies (thin film and nano technology solar cells respectively) will enable the production of more efficient solar modules at a price cheaper than that of crystalline modules.

Development in the technology and process will double the present solar cell efficiency in the near future. A sunlight-to-electricity conversion rate of 41.6% has already been achieved in lab conditons.

The new solar cell record was established by Spectrolab, a solely-owned subsidiary of The Boeing Company, which has been independently verified by the US Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado (US). The new record surpasses the previous record of 41.1% held by the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany.

High-efficiency solar cells in concentrator systems require fewer cells to produce the same electrical output as conventional solar cells. They enable energy producers to generate more electrical power from typical industrial solar panels and pass on lower costs to homeowners, businesses and other end users.

“This latest record asserts Spectrolab’s leadership position in high efficiency multi-junction solar cells and brings the industry one step closer to achieving affordable solar electricity,” said David Lillington, president of Spectrolab.

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