First Solar (FSLR), the thin-film solar leader, just announced a new cadmium telluride solar module efficiency record that absolutely crushes the previous record, also held by First Solar.

First Solar achieved an NREL-confirmed efficiency of 16.1 percent, which erases the previous record of 14.4 percent that the firm set last year. First Solar also set a high mark for CdTe open-circuit voltage, an indicator of PV panel performance, hitting 903.2 millivolts. In addition, First Solar set a new world record for CdTe solar cell efficiency of 18.7 percent last month.

Setting records is one thing, translating that to commercial shipments is another -- and it's something First Solar has done well over the years.
First Solar has upped its module conversion efficiency roadmap, increasing its lead production line panel efficiency target for 2015 to 15 percent to 16.2 percent. First Solar also extended its 2017 module conversion efficiency roadmap to targets of 16.2 percent to 16.9 percent in 2016 and 16.4 percent to 17.1 percent in 2017 for its lead production line. These target numbers are starting to look like silicon specs of today.
First Solar's average production module efficiency was 12.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, while its "lead line" was producing modules with 13.1 percent efficiency during the fourth quarter.  

First Solar is working with Intermolecular as part of its effort to improve panel performance. First Solar has to keep its efficiency climbing while reducing cost in order to keep up with plunging crystalline silicon costs.

Other firms looking to innovate in CdTe include Reel Solar, Bloo Solar, and Calyxo. First Solar remains the thin-film solar leader, followed by Solar Frontier, which is working in the CIGS material system.

Non-updated chart from NREL. Click to enlarge.

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