The record performance, announced last week at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi by First Solar Chief Technology Officer Dave Eaglesham, comes just six months after First Solar leapfrogged the world record for CdTe solar cell efficiency with a mark of 17.3 percent. Both the cell and module record-setters were constructed using commercial-scale manufacturing equipment and materials at the Company's Perrysburg, Ohio factory.
Cell efficiency measures the proportion of light converted to energy in a single solar cell, whereas total area module efficiency measures light conversion across a production-size, multi-cell solar module, providing a more realistic assessment of real-world performance than cell or aperture-area efficiency.
"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 Officer. "These records also underscore the tremendous ongoing potential of CdTe compared to silicon-based technologies."
First Solar updated its module efficiency roadmap in December 2011 to the increased goal of 14.5-15 percent average efficiency for its production modules by the end of 2015, and the process improvements developed for the record-setting cell and module continue to be implemented as part of that roadmap. The average efficiency of First Solar modules increased from 11.4 percent in 2010 to 11.7 percent in 2011 and is expected to reach 12.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012.
"Our continuous investment in R&D has enabled the steady progress of our technology, punctuated by landmark achievements such as this," said Mike Ahearn, Chairman and interim CEO of First Solar. "Our consistent progress gives us confidence in our ability to achieve our roadmap goals, drive down costs and develop sustainable markets."
First Solar, which has manufactured more than 5 GW of its advanced thin-film modules, utilizes a continuous manufacturing process which transforms a sheet of glass into a complete solar module in less than 2.5 hours, which contributes to the company's industry-leading energy payback time and the low carbon footprint of systems using First Solar PV modules. First Solar also implemented the industry's first comprehensive, prefunded solar module collection and recycling program. Anyone wishing to dispose of First Solar modules can request collection at any time, at no additional cost, and First Solar will pick up the modules and recycle up to 90% (by mass) of the material for use in new products, including new solar modules and new glass products.
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