SunPower’s Record-Breaking Cell In Production

New solar efficiency records are always a good thing, but for a company the big achievement is in getting the high-performing cells into products and on the market. That’s what makes SunPower’s recent announcement noteworthy—the company said its third-generation Maxeon solar cell is now in commercial production.

It was nearly two years ago, back in June 2010, that we reported SunPower hit 24.2 percent with a prototype solar cell.

sunpower solar

image via SunPower

And now: “We’re pleased to move our world-record breaking efficiency solar cell from the lab into commercial production,” Tom Werner, SunPower president and CEO, said in a statement. “With the new Maxeon solar cells, offering efficiencies of up to 24 percent, SunPower continues to lead the industry in technology innovation, delivering to its customers the highest efficiency, most reliable solar panels for guaranteed performance.”

One thing to point out here is that this doesn’t mean that any old SunPower panel you put on your roof is going to operate at 24 percent efficiency. “The new Maxeon solar cells are currently being integrated into select SunPower solar panels that deliver efficiencies exceeding 20 percent,” the company noted. “These panels contain up to 128 solar cells per panel and will be availability in limited quantities in 2012.

Another interesting aspect of SunPower’s Maxeon announcement was that it emphasized the appearance of the cells. “The new Maxeon solar cell offers improved aesthetics with a consistent, homogenous, sleek black look,” the company said.

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.