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First Solar's CdTe module breaks total area efficiency record

Achieving 16.1 percent efficiency has spurred the cadmium-telluride manufacturer to alter its production module efficiency roadmap. This is to be accelerated and extended to 16.4 to 17.1 percent for 2017
First Solar has set a new world record for CdTe photovoltaic (PV) module conversion efficiency.

The firm has achieved a record 16.1 percent total area module efficiency in tests confirmed by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

The new record is a substantial increase over the prior record of 14.4 percent efficiency, which the company set in January 2012.

Separately, First Solar also set a record for CdTe open circuit voltage (VOC), a critical parameter for PV performance, reaching 903.2mV in NREL-certified testing. This new record marks the first substantial increase in CdTe VOC in over a decade of international R&D.

The new records come just six weeks after First Solar announced a new world record for CdTe solar cell efficiency of 18.7 percent.



First Solar's R&D team in Perrysburg, Ohio

Transferring its success in the R&D lab to its commercial modules, First Solar also launched a new evolution of its Series 3 thin-film PV module platform, the Series 3 Black,. They incorporate First Solar's latest advances in conversion efficiency as well as additional features to enhance its performance in utility-scale power plants.

The all-black module's change in appearance results from the use of an advanced, all-black edge seal technology combined with an innovative encapsulation material that further enhances its field durability and demonstrates improvements in accelerated life testing results.



First Solar Series 3 Black solar modules

The Series 3 Black's performance in a wide range of operating environments is further validated by its new IEC 60068-2-68 "sand and dust test" certification, which measures durability in harsh desert environments characterised by blowing abrasive sand.

The certification complements existing IEC salt mist and ammonia certifications to provide a comprehensive range of independent testing that reflects world-class durability and performance in the harshest operating conditions.

The Series 3 Black module maintains all the existing IEC certifications and UL listings for the Series 3 family which enable the 1000V system designs that typify the company's utility-scale power plants. First Solar began to implement the Series 3 Black enhancements in production modules earlier this year.

Based on the company's record-setting technology and robust Series 3 Black platform, the company also has accelerated its module conversion efficiency roadmap, raising its lead production line module efficiency target for 2015 to 15 to 16.2 percent.

First Solar also extended its module conversion efficiency roadmap to 2017, with targets for lead production line module efficiency of 16.2 to 16.9 percent in 2016 and 16.4 to 17.1 percent in 2017.

"We are especially proud of this new efficiency record because the technology was created for production-scale implementation, as evidenced by our accelerated efficiency roadmaps," says Raffi Garabedian, First Solar's Chief Technology Officer.

"Measurements in the lab are an important benchmark, but our R&D mission is to deliver technology that is designed to shine in real-world conditions as part of our integrated power plant systems, engineered to deliver the best performance, reliability and value for our customers. The Series 3 Black is a testament to our integrated approach to product development, combining technological advances from the lab with years of real-world data and experience operating utility-scale power plants in harsh environments."

Since it began commercial production in 2002, First Solar has produced more than 90 million of its advanced thin-film solar modules with a capacity of over 7GW, enough to provide clean electricity for more than 3.7 million homes and displace approximately 5 million metric tons of CO2 annually, based on world averages. If laid end-to-end, the modules would circle the equator nearly three times.

First Solar utilises a continuous manufacturing process which transforms a sheet of glass into a complete solar module in less than 2.5 hours, contributing to the energy payback time and low carbon footprint of systems using First Solar PV modules.

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