The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has confirmed that Miasolé panels convert sunlight into electricity with an efficiency of 10.2 percent.

Lawrence Kazmerski, a director at the lab, announced the news at Intersolar North America this week.

"We were surprised," Kazmerski said. "Their technology development hasn't been that long," he said.

The confirmation from NREL could help assuage some industry watchers’ concerns about the conversion efficiency of copper-indium-gallium-diselenide films, the kind that Miasolé is developing.

NREL also has tested such films, called CIGS, made by Global Solar Energy and Nanosolar, Kazmerski said.

Global Solar has said it had reached average conversion efficiencies of 10 percent for cells produced at its initial plant (see Q&A: Global Solar VPs Dish Thin-Film Details).

Kazmerski said he doesn't have the authority to reveal Nanosolar’s results, but added that they were not disappointing. In June, Nanosolar claimed it had created the industry’s largest solar production tool that can deliver cells with up to 14.5 percent efficiency (see Nanosolar Creates Largest Thin-Film Tool).

CIGS advocates believe CIGS technology has the potential to compete with cadmium-telluride films, such as those made by First Solar (NSDQ: FSLR), by far the largest producer of thin-film solar.

First Solar reached an average cell efficiency of 10.6 percent at the end of last year, according to Piper Jaffray. Steve Murphy, manager of design engineering for First Solar, said at Intersolar that the company has reached panel efficiencies of 10.5 percent.

But while NREL itself has made CIGS films with a world record of 19.9 percent efficiency, compared with a record of 16.5 percent for cadmium telluride, some industry insiders have wondered whether CIGS made on production lines would even achieve efficiencies of 10 percent.

A number of startups have been developing CIGS, but none have yet produced the films in significant volumes. Miasolé said in May that it plans to ship its first commercial panels to customers by the end of this year.

Although Miasolé has been focused on thin-film solar development since 2003, the company has endured a range of hardships, such as layoffs and rumors that the thin-film developer had been suffering technical setbacks.

In September, the company, which was still producing cells with an average 5 percent efficiency, hired Joseph Laia as its new CEO. Laia immediately set his sights on increasing the company's cell efficiencies and reaching commercial production.

Things have been looking up for Miasolé. Aside from receiving the confirmation from NREL, the company snagged $20 million from a cleantech venture capital fund being created by ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel manufacturer, VentureBeat reported Monday.

And at least one analyst believes that the big story of next year is likely to be CIGS technologies.

“Many of these [technologies] are ready to go,”Travis Bradford, president of the Prometheus Institute, a Greentech Media partner, said in May (see Thin-Film Solar Has Bright Future).

--Associate Editor Ucilia Wang contributed to this story.