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First Solar sets new thin-film efficiency world record

First Solar has set a new world record for thin-film PV panel efficiency, with its modules converting 17 percent of sunlight to energy.

The record was confirmed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and is an increase over the previous record of 16.1 percent, also set by First Solar, in April 2013.

A First Solar installation in Sinzheim, Germany. Credit: First Solar

A First Solar installation in Sinzheim, Germany. Credit: First Solar

The company also recently set a world record in thin-film research cell efficiency of 20.4 percent, and they’ve been applying the technologies used in such research to their commercial product lines.

“This achievement demonstrates our ability to rapidly and reliably transfer research results to full-size modules. We can take CdTe innovation from the lab to production faster and more reliably than other technologies due to our robust, adaptable manufacturing processes and the accommodating nature of CdTe material technology,” said Raffi Garabedian, First Solar’s Chief Technology Officer.

“Our R&D efforts are delivering technology that will quickly be scaled to real-world application as part of our integrated power plant systems, which are engineered to deliver the best performance, reliability and value for our customers.”

He also noted that improved efficiency also makes thin-film modules a more attractive option for going solar in commercial/industrial installations. “With the highest demonstrated thin-film module performance, we are positioned to pursue new deployment opportunities around the world,” he said.

Taking these technological advances into account, First Solar has now raised its efficiency targets, with targets for year-end lead-line production nameplate efficiency of 17.7 to 18.4 percent in 2016 and 18.1 to 18.9 percent in 2017.

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