Suntech (NYSE: STP), the world's largest solar module manufacturer, just launched two new products.

  • Their first Pluto product in the U.S.-- a 245-watt multicrystalline panel
  • A 290-watt mono/multi hybrid panel

Suntech’s Pluto cell processing technology uses a metallization process that reduces shading on the cell surface and allows cells to absorb more sunlight. The front surface metallization process creates grid contacts thinner than 30 microns wide using copper rather than silver. Suntech claims that the product provides two percent to five percent higher energy yields in the field compared to traditional screen-printed technology due to superior spectral response. Suntech targets 200 megawatts of Pluto shipments in 2011.

The Pluto design is based on the PERL (passivated emitter with rear locally diffused) technology developed at Australia's University of New South Wales, where efficiencies of 25 percent have been achieved in the laboratory. Unique texturing technology with lower reflectivity ensures more sunlight can be absorbed throughout the day even without direct solar radiation.  

The hybrid processing technology is a silicon casting and wafering process that produces higher-quality multicrystalline wafers with strong resistance to light-induced degradation.   

Suntech's R&D investments have grown from $15 million in 2008 to $29 million in 2009 and $40 million in 2010.

Industry lore of China's technology companies being unable to innovate will be meeting the reality of new products from Suntech and the other Chinese solar giants like Suntech, Yingli, Trina, and JA Solar.

We've covered advances by SunPower here, and Shyam Mehta looked at the efficiency technologies being brought to market by the solar giants.