First Solar Sets CdTe Module Efficiency Mark

American solar manufacturing might be struggling, but it isn’t dead. At a plant in Perrysburg, Ohio, First Solar put together a cadmium-telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic (PV) solar module that achieved a record 14.4 percent total area efficiency, the company said. This measurement of light conversion across a production-size, multi-cell solar module, confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, beats the old record – also held by First Solar – of 13.4 percent.

The company noted that the record performance came six months after it set a world mark for CdTe solar cell efficiency – a measure of the proportion of light converted to energy in a single solar cell – at 17.3 percent. Like the module, the cell was constructed using commercial-scale manufacturing equipment and materials at the Perrysburg factory, First Solar said.

first solar thin-film solar efficiency record

image via First Solar

“This considerable achievement supports our module efficiency roadmap and demonstrates our ability to convert our record-cell technology into ongoing module-level improvements,” said Dave Eaglesham, First Solar’s chief technology cfficer, who announced the new module record at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi. “These records also underscore the tremendous ongoing potential of CdTe compared to silicon-based technologies.”

In November, First Solar said it had driven its average module conversion efficiency up to 12.4 percent on its “best-performing production lines” during the third quarter of 2011, and that “average conversion efficiency for all production lines was 11.8 percent in the third quarter, up from 11.7 percent in the second quarter.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.