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Solar panel breaks "third of a sun" efficiency barrier

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November 2, 2012

Amonix solar panels break through the 33-percent efficiency barrier

Amonix solar panels break through the 33-percent efficiency barrier

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Embattled photovoltaic solar power manufacturer Amonix announced on Tuesday that it has broken the solar module efficiency record, becoming the first manufacturer to convert more than a third of incoming light energy into electricity – a goal once branded "one third of a sun" in a Department of Energy initiative. The Amonix module clocked an efficiency rating of 33.5 percent.

During a period of testing by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory back in May, a peak efficiency of 34.2 percent was achieved, which Amonix claims is the highest ever reached by a PV module under real-world conditions. However, Amonix is only now drawing attention to the breakthrough, which saw its own record of 30.3 percent efficiency broken.

Amonix modules employ concentrated photovoltaics (CPV) technology, which add optical whizbangery such as mirrors and lenses to concentrate more direct sunlight onto individual solar cells. The technology is not to be confused with concentrated solar power, which applies similar optical technology to solar thermal systems which heat water, but also generate electricity with the addition of a heat engine.

The solar module efficiency is the efficiency of the panel, and not the same as the efficiency of individual solar cells from which it's comprised. At the moment, solar cell efficiency can just exceed 43 percent for concentrated systems. It's the module efficiency, however, which reflects the amount of electricity a PV system can produce.

The breakthrough could provide a shot in the arm for Amonix, which, the Las Vegas Review Journal recently reported, closed its Las Vegas manufacturing center in July. Though it's tempting to write Amonix's hardships into the narrative of Western solar manufacturers struggling to compete in a market awash with cheap solar panels from China, the Review Journal piece hints at a more complex and unfortunate cocktail of woes.

Whatever the difficulties, the technological edge that this record demonstrates certainly can't hurt the company's chances of future success.

Source: Amonix

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life.   All articles by James Holloway
14 Comments

Incredible achievement, but at what kind of price to produce? How long does the cell last?

Joel Detrow
2nd November, 2012 @ 05:20 am PDT

Amonix claims 25 yrs for the working life of the multijunction cells.

Nick Huggins
3rd November, 2012 @ 09:29 pm PDT

What great news for the Solar Industry .This is yet another reason to utilise the Power of the Sun instead fossil fuels.

Mick Perger
4th November, 2012 @ 06:01 pm PST

As great as solar power is, its just too inefficient. I can't wait 34 hours (tested in a lab) to recharge a 1mAh battery with a strip of organic solar cells from Konarka (strip was 1x3 cm). Consiering that the latest mobile batteries are 2000mAh its just not a proposition for anything other than industrial battery backup and for larger consumer type products

Rocky Stefano
5th November, 2012 @ 05:48 am PST

Since most of the rest (66% or so) of the energy will go to heat up the solar cells, is there any way of using this heat in any sort of hybrid PV/thermal system? I'm thinking of a hollow PV cell which has a working fluid running through it; am I way off base?

Steve Jones
5th November, 2012 @ 07:15 am PST

Efficiency is only a portion of the issue, cost efficiency is other. It doesn't look like a very cheap panel and delivery system. Economies of scale only go so far.

H Skip Robinson
5th November, 2012 @ 08:33 am PST

SOLAR makes sense wind is playing around with mother nature and I feel could be a hazard . good job with the new cells guys.

POOL PUMPREAPAIR guy longwood
5th November, 2012 @ 11:00 am PST

Concentrated PV only works on a dual axis tracker so that it is aimed perfectly at the sun, therefore it cant be put on roofs and is much more advantageous in areas with high DNI- the desert. The advantage of CPV technology is less footprint. A technology that is designed to save space, but is only economical in a place with almost endless space(deserts)... CPV solves a problem that doesn't exist. Now if there were a rooftop application for CPV....

B Alingh
5th November, 2012 @ 09:40 pm PST

Yet another reason not to buy solar panels until the price per watt becomes stable.

nutcase
6th November, 2012 @ 05:17 am PST

What is needed is a "Solex Agitator"

95% efficient and the ability to control the world.

Captain Danger
7th November, 2012 @ 04:29 pm PST

It's really amazing how modern technology works! I guess, Amonix is really doing its homework. Great job! Two thumbs up for this!

Darcy Hubbert
7th November, 2012 @ 04:35 pm PST

First?

What about these guys?

http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/intelligent-energy/breakthrough-worlds-most-efficient-solar-panel/12800

Ryan Weiss
15th November, 2012 @ 03:24 pm PST

The Semprius claim is based on some indoor lab tests, under standard test conditions (25° C), but not verified by one of the designated test centers (like NREL). The Amonix result is outdoors, under OPERATING conditions, and verified by NREL. The modules run a good bit hotter under operation (probably 60° C or more), so this latest result is a lot more impressive.

SMiller
28th December, 2012 @ 10:14 am PST

Nutcase -- so you won't go solar until the price stops dropping?

Bill in Seattle
26th January, 2013 @ 05:41 pm PST
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