First Solar, an innovator in solar energy, has just set a new world record for solar cell conversion efficiency. The company set the record with its cadmium-telluride (CdTE) thin film solar cell. CdTE solar cells can be produced quicker and cheaper than conventional solar cells. First Solar hopes this will eventually decrease the cost of solar power.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) confirmed that First Solar’s CdTe solar cell achieved a conversion efficiency of 18.7%.
While less efficient than an advanced concentrated solar system, what the CdTe lacks in efficiency it makes up in affordability and versatility. The film technology is more affordable, more flexible, and lighter than traditional solar cells.
First Solar is hoping this record will combat the negative perceptions that arose about the company last spring with some members of Congress attacked the Obama administration for its support of the US solar industry.
The technology has already begun to be used in mainstream production. In 2012, production modules averaged 12.2% and increased to 12.9%, and the leading line achieved 13.1%.
First Solar’s CdTe solar cells have efficiency between 10% and 12.4%.
Despite the fact silicon is ubiquitous in photovoltaics, the Department of Energy has been following the evolution of CdTe since 1994, when the NREL began a public/private research and development partnership called the Thin Film Photovoltaic Partnership Project.
The DOE understands that keeping America competitive involves finding solutions to the energy conundrum in the US. America is incredibly reliant on fossil fuels from countries across the globe that are at unrest and unstable. By using technology to divest the country of dependence of fossil fuel, the country not only achieves energy independence but can pave the way for alternative and sustainable energy solutions.