Key takeaways


irst Solar, a powerhouse in the US solar technology scene and one of the world’s best solar panel companies, has recently set a new benchmark for the best photovoltaic (PV) cell efficiency. Working together with Uppsala University, the company's European Technology Center has achieved a staggering 23.64% efficiency based on Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) technology. Let's unpack the layers behind this significant breakthrough and discover what it means for the future of clean energy.

What's CIGS Solar Technology?

Solar Sets New CIGS Efficiency Explanation
Solar Sets New CIGS Efficiency

The exciting new record comes from using CIGS technology. Unlike the more common silicon panels, CIGS solar cells are part of the thin-film photovoltaic family. A thin film solar cell is made by putting fine layers of special solar materials on a base, like glass, plastic, or metal. One of the perks of these cells is that they're lighter and more bendy than traditional silicon cells because of their slim design.

CIGS cells stand out in the thin-film category due to their special blend of materials - copper, indium, gallium, and selenide, making them one of the best at turning sunlight into electricity. Additionally, CIGS technology is extremely versatile, fitting into a wide range of uses. Solar panels made with CIGS can be turned into flexible or rigid modules, and even integrated into buildings as part of the structure itself (known as Building-Integrated Photovoltaics or BIPV).

However, most of the solar panels you see around are made from silicon, holding more than 90% of the market. CIGS panels, in comparison, make up less than 1% according to the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (Fraunhofer ISE). Why? Well, one of the main reasons is cost: CIGS cells come with a higher price tag per watt. Yet, with ongoing improvements, this technology is becoming a strong player in the solar power game.

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Journey to the Record

Getting to the world record for the most efficient solar cells was a journey of innovation and in-depth research. The new cell reached a peak efficiency of 23.75%, with a certified efficiency of 23.64%, surpassing the former record of 23.35% set by Japan’s Solar Frontier in 2019. This milestone was officially recognized by Fraunhofer ISE, highlighting the achievement's dependability.

The innovation was led by the First Solar European Technology Center, previously known as Evolar. Ever since First Solar became its new owner in May 2023, this group has been making big waves in the world of thin-film solar. Their focus is on developing tandem solar cells, which involves combining multiple solar technologies in one panel, potentially transforming how we harness solar energy.

The Ingredients of Success

Let's peek under the hood of this achievement without getting lost in technical talk. How did the team manage to push solar power efficiency to new heights and create the highest efficiency solar cell? It all boils down to a clever combination of new methods and materials that work together to boost how well the cell works. The team added a significant amount of silver into the solar cell's absorber layer and crafted a unique gallium profile that resembles a hockey stick. This approach helped to stabilize the energy levels within the cell, ensuring it captures and converts more sunlight into electricity.

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Looking Ahead: The Road to 25% and Beyond

The researchers aren’t stopping here. They are aiming even higher, hoping to breach the 25% efficiency threshold. To get there, they are planning to tweak and refine the design of their solar cells to cut down on any wasted energy and to make the material that absorbs sunlight even better.

This progress is a big deal in the solar energy field, showing the powerful promise of CIGS technology in its quest to achieve the best solar panel efficiency and expand the horizons of what's possible.


Key takeaways

Breaking Barriers: First Solar Sets New Efficiency Record with CIGS Technology

  1. New Efficiency Milestone:
    • First Solar, a leading solar technology player, has achieved a groundbreaking efficiency of 23.64% with its Copper Indium Gallium Selenide (CIGS) solar cell technology. This surpasses the former record, showcasing a significant leap in photovoltaic cell efficiency.
  2. CIGS Technology Unveiled:
    • CIGS solar cells, part of the thin-film photovoltaic family, boast a special blend of materials that make them highly efficient in converting sunlight into electricity. Despite constituting less than 1% of the market, CIGS technology's versatility and potential applications are increasingly gaining attention.
  3. Journey to Success:
    • Achieving the world record involved extensive research and innovation, resulting in a certified efficiency of 23.64%, officially recognized by Fraunhofer ISE. Led by the First Solar European Technology Center, this milestone signifies a transformative step in thin-film solar technology advancement.
  4. Ingredients of Breakthrough:
    • The success can be attributed to a strategic combination of innovative methods and materials, including the incorporation of silver and a unique gallium profile. These enhancements stabilize energy levels within the cell, optimizing sunlight capture and electricity conversion.
  5. Road to Higher Efficiency:
    • With sights set on surpassing the 25% efficiency threshold, researchers are committed to further refining solar cell designs and enhancing sunlight absorption materials. This progress underscores the promising future of CIGS technology and its potential to redefine solar panel efficiency standards.
  6. Expanding Horizons:
    • The achievement not only demonstrates the remarkable promise of CIGS technology but also signifies a significant stride towards pushing the boundaries of solar energy efficiency. As research continues, the potential for further advancements in clean energy solutions remains bright.
Apr 2, 2024
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