First Solar Teams Up with Intermolecular on CdTe PV Efficiency
In order to stay competitive with crystalline silicon (c-Si), thin-film solar manufacturers such as the leader in that technology, First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR) have to continue to keep their eye on costs but must also raise efficiency.
First Solar has had a modest but consistent ramp in conversion efficiency of roughly 0.1 percentage point per quarter. It doesn’t sound like a lot but it starts to add up over time. The average line conversion efficiency for First Solar’s modules was 12.4 percent in the first quarter of this year.
Fist Solar set a new world record for CdTe PV module efficiency with a 14.4 percent total area efficiency in January. That mark came after First Solar hit a CdTe solar cell efficiency of 17.3 percent. Both records were set at the firm’s Perrysburg, Ohio factory.
So there’s headroom and the potential to really give c-Si a run for the money on efficiency. But First Solar has to keep hammering on the potential of the CdTe materials system as well as the other pieces of the module stack such as the Transparent Conductive Oxide (TCO). As a testament to First Solar’s intense need for improving performance — the firm has reached out and formed a partnership with Intermolecular (Nasdaq:IMI).
Intermolecular uses a combinatorial experiment technology that comes out of biotech firm Symx. First Solar looks to Intermolecular’s High Productivity Combinatorial (HPC) platform to help develop more advanced, CdTe-based PV
manufacturing processes. Intermolecular acts as an R&D accelerator, and in turn, Intermolecular typically gets a royalty from products sold that were developed with its technology — although First Solar did not divulge the exact nature of the partnership.
We spoke with Raffi Garabedian, First Solar’s CTO about the partnership. Garabedian said, “The device we make is a semiconductor junction and very similar to a CMOS device — and you can imagine that Intermolecular’s process expertise could be turned to PV.”
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