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9 April 2013

First Solar raises CdTe total area module efficiency record from 14.4% to 16.1%; Series 3 Black module launched

First Solar Inc of Tempe, AZ, USA has raised its world record for cadmium telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic (PV) total area module efficiency from 14.4% (set in January 2012) to 16.1%, as confirmed in tests by the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Separately, First Solar has also set a record for CdTe open-circuit voltage (VOC), a critical parameter for PV performance, reaching 903.2mV in NREL-certified testing. The firm notes that this new record marks the first substantial increase in CdTe VOC in over a decade of international R&D.

The new records come just six weeks after First Solar announced a new record for CdTe solar cell efficiency of 18.7%.

Picture: First Solar’s R&D team in Perrysburg, OH, which set the new record.

Transferring its success in the R&D lab to its commercial modules, First Solar also launched a new evolution of its Series 3 thin-film PV module platform, the Series 3 Black, incorporating the firm’s latest advances in conversion efficiency as well as additional features to enhance its performance in utility-scale power plants. The all-black module’s change in appearance results from the use of an all-black edge seal technology combined with encapsulation material that further enhances field durability and demonstrates improvements in accelerated life-testing results.

First Solar says that the Series 3 Black’s performance in a wide range of operating environments is further validated by its new IEC 60068-2-68 ‘sand and dust test’ certification, which measures durability in harsh desert environments characterized by blowing abrasive sand. The certification complements existing IEC salt mist and ammonia certifications to provide a comprehensive range of independent testing reflecting durability and performance in the harshest operating conditions. The Series 3 Black module maintains all the existing IEC certifications and UL listings for the Series 3 family that enable the 1000V system designs that typify the firm’s utility-scale power plants. First Solar began to implement the Series 3 Black enhancements in production modules earlier this year.

“The technology [for the latest efficiency record] was created for production-scale implementation, as evidenced by our accelerated efficiency roadmaps,” says chief technology officer Raffi Garabedian. Based on the firm’s record-setting technology and Series 3 Black platform, First Solar has accelerated its module conversion efficiency roadmap, raising its lead production-line module efficiency target for 2015 to 15-16.2%. It has also extended its module conversion efficiency roadmap to 2017, with targets for lead production-line module efficiency of 16.2-16.9% in 2016 and 16.4-17.1% in 2017.

“Measurements in the lab are an important benchmark, but our R&D mission is to deliver technology that is designed to shine in real-world conditions as part of our integrated power plant systems,” says Garabedian. “The Series 3 Black is a testament to our integrated approach to product development, combining technological advances from the lab with years of real-world data and experience operating utility-scale power plants in harsh environments,” he adds.

Since it began commercial production in 2002, First Solar has produced more than 90 million of its thin-film solar modules with a capacity of over 7GW (enough to provide clean electricity for more than 3.7 million homes and displace about 5 million metric tons of CO2 annually, based on world averages).

See related items:

First Solar sets 18.7% record for CdTe solar cell efficiency

Tags: First Solar Thin-film photovoltaic CdTe


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