Environment

Solar panel breaks "third of a sun" efficiency barrier

Solar panel breaks "third of a...
Amonix solar panels break through the 33-percent efficiency barrier
Amonix solar panels break through the 33-percent efficiency barrier
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Amonix solar panels break through the 33-percent efficiency barrier
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Amonix solar panels break through the 33-percent efficiency barrier
Amonix solar panels at the River Mountains Water Treatment Facility, Nevada
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Amonix solar panels at the River Mountains Water Treatment Facility, Nevada
Amonix solar panels at the River Mountains Water Treatment Facility, Nevada
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Amonix solar panels at the River Mountains Water Treatment Facility, Nevada

Embattled photovoltaic solar power manufacturer Amonix announced on Tuesday that it has broken the solar module efficiency record, becoming the first manufacturer to convert more than a third of incoming light energy into electricity – a goal once branded "one third of a sun" in a Department of Energy initiative. The Amonix module clocked an efficiency rating of 33.5 percent.

During a period of testing by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory back in May, a peak efficiency of 34.2 percent was achieved, which Amonix claims is the highest ever reached by a PV module under real-world conditions. However, Amonix is only now drawing attention to the breakthrough, which saw its own record of 30.3 percent efficiency broken.

Amonix modules employ concentrated photovoltaics (CPV) technology, which add optical whizbangery such as mirrors and lenses to concentrate more direct sunlight onto individual solar cells. The technology is not to be confused with concentrated solar power, which applies similar optical technology to solar thermal systems which heat water, but also generate electricity with the addition of a heat engine.

The solar module efficiency is the efficiency of the panel, and not the same as the efficiency of individual solar cells from which it's comprised. At the moment, solar cell efficiency can just exceed 43 percent for concentrated systems. It's the module efficiency, however, which reflects the amount of electricity a PV system can produce.

The breakthrough could provide a shot in the arm for Amonix, which, the Las Vegas Review Journal recently reported, closed its Las Vegas manufacturing center in July. Though it's tempting to write Amonix's hardships into the narrative of Western solar manufacturers struggling to compete in a market awash with cheap solar panels from China, the Review Journal piece hints at a more complex and unfortunate cocktail of woes.

Whatever the difficulties, the technological edge that this record demonstrates certainly can't hurt the company's chances of future success.

Source: Amonix

14 comments
Joel Detrow
Incredible achievement, but at what kind of price to produce? How long does the cell last?
Nick Huggins
Amonix claims 25 yrs for the working life of the multijunction cells.
Mick Perger
What great news for the Solar Industry .This is yet another reason to utilise the Power of the Sun instead fossil fuels.
Rocky Stefano
As great as solar power is, its just too inefficient. I can't wait 34 hours (tested in a lab) to recharge a 1mAh battery with a strip of organic solar cells from Konarka (strip was 1x3 cm). Consiering that the latest mobile batteries are 2000mAh its just not a proposition for anything other than industrial battery backup and for larger consumer type products
Steve Jones
Since most of the rest (66% or so) of the energy will go to heat up the solar cells, is there any way of using this heat in any sort of hybrid PV/thermal system? I'm thinking of a hollow PV cell which has a working fluid running through it; am I way off base?
H Robinson
Efficiency is only a portion of the issue, cost efficiency is other. It doesn't look like a very cheap panel and delivery system. Economies of scale only go so far.
POOL PUMPREAPAIR guy longwood
SOLAR makes sense wind is playing around with mother nature and I feel could be a hazard . good job with the new cells guys.
B Alingh
Concentrated PV only works on a dual axis tracker so that it is aimed perfectly at the sun, therefore it cant be put on roofs and is much more advantageous in areas with high DNI- the desert. The advantage of CPV technology is less footprint. A technology that is designed to save space, but is only economical in a place with almost endless space(deserts)... CPV solves a problem that doesn't exist. Now if there were a rooftop application for CPV....
nutcase
Yet another reason not to buy solar panels until the price per watt becomes stable.
Captain Danger
What is needed is a "Solex Agitator" 95% efficient and the ability to control the world.