While the recent solar market has its dark side (bankruptcies, layoffs, slim profits, and consolidation), the industry continues to innovate and drive device performance ever upward.
That means that when the solar sector makes it through these lean times, it will possess increasingly higher efficiencies and even lower price-per-watt metrics than today’s already surprisingly low numbers.
These performance records are occurring across the board in every photovoltaic materials system, from CdTe (Abound) to CIGS (MiaSolé) to GaAs (Alta Devices) to triple-junction CPV cells (Solar Junction and Semprius) to crystalline silicon (SunPower).
Here are some recent announcements of record-setting results:
Alta Devices’ most recent gallium arsenide (GaAs)-based solar panel boasts a 23.5-percent efficiency, as verified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The firm claims that “This is the highest solar panel efficiency yet achieved.” The press release did not discuss the size of the panel and the company has not yet responded to our inquiry.
Alta Devices has won more than $120 million in venture funding from August Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, Crosslink Capital, DAG Ventures, NEA, Presidio Ventures, Technology Partners, Dow Chemical, AIMCo, Good Energies, Energy Technology Ventures, and Constellation Energy. The firm is still in the pilot manufacturing phase. Chris Norris, the CEO of Alta, has said that the company’s goal is to “compete with fossil fuels without government subsidies” and get to a levelized cost of energy of $0.06 to $0.07 per kilowatt-hour. The epitaxial lift-off technique pioneered by Alta founder Eli Yablonovitch allows the firm to produce layers of GaAs that are flexible and measure only one micron in thickness.