Suntech Power Sets Records in PV Efficiency and Performance
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. Some of the following milestones represent ‘hero experiments,’ but nevertheless — the numbers keep rising.
Today’s announcement from Suntech raises the bar a little higher for the world’s number one module supplier and its Pluto technology.
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 (First Solar and Abound) to CIGS (MiaSolé) to CIS (Solar Frontier) to GaAs (Alta Devices) to triple-junction CPV cells (Solar Junction and Semprius) to crystalline silicon (SunPower and Suntech).
Here are some recent announcements of record-setting results:
Suntech’s (NYSE: STP) Pluto cell technology achieved a 20.3 percent efficiency for a production cell using commercial-grade p-type silicon wafers. Pluto technology is a combination of different elements which combine to improve cell efficiency, with 21 percent efficiency targeted within the next year. These incremental improvements include surface patterning, improved metallization, improved front metal contact dimensions, changes in dopant concentration at the emitter, and improved high-temperature performance. None of these processes come cheap. Plus, the new product has not exactly replaced Suntech’s existing lines — it appears to remain a premium product at premium prices.
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