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First Solar Makes World’s Most Efficient Thin-Film Solar PV Cell

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First Solar, the world’s largest manufacturer of thin-film solar photovoltaic cells and modules, has bettered its record of producing the most efficient solar cell.

The US-based company recently announced that a cell manufactured at its Ohio manufacturing factory and research & development center achieved an efficiency of 21%, the highest on record by a non-concentrating cadmium-telluride (CdTe) cell.

The efficiency of the research cell, certified by Newport Corporation’s Technology and Applications Center (TAC) PV Lab, is 3% more than a cell manufactured by First Solar in February 2014. The encouraging fact about the cell is that it has been constructed using processes and materials designed for commercial-scale manufacturing, thus making is possibly easier for First Solar to quickly switch to the cell’s mass production.

The new cell’s efficiency is now second only to a concentrating version of the CdTe cell in the thin-film solar cell domain. Within the non-concentrating segment, the second-highest efficiency was achieved by a Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) cell at 20.9%. Solar Frontier made that cell earlier this year. First Solar has also gone a notch up on multi-crystalline silicon cells, whose efficiency peaked at 20.4% in 2004.

Also, as noted in a recent CleanTechnica exclusive, First Solar module efficiency doesn’t drop as much in hot temperatures as crystalline silicon solar modules.

The company will now look to replicate its success in the production facilities. The average production module efficiency in Q2 2014 reached 14%, up 0.5% from Q1 2014 and up 0.7% from FY2013. First Solar has set a target to enhance research cell efficiency to 22% in 2015.

Steady improvement in cell efficiency is critical for First Solar’s ability to sustain big sales and churn out profits. The recently announced second quarter financial results reveal that the company’s net sales were $544 million, a massive decline of $406 million compared to the first quarter. The company is facing competition from cheap Chinese modules and anti-dumping duties in major solar power markets like India.

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