Certified by the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the new record of 18.6% aperture area efficiency relates to a full area conversion efficiency of 18.2%.

The achievement overcomes the previous record of approximate full area efficiency of 17.7% of multi-crystalline Si PERC module.

First Solar CEO Raffi Garabedian said: "First Solar’s CdTe thin film is now rightly categorized as a high performance product.

"At one time, we might have been characterized as a low cost, low efficiency technology, but consistent with our technology projections we are now proving that CdTe thin film delivers both industry-leading performance AND sustainable thin-film cost structures.

Earlier this year, the company developed a research cell with a conversion efficiency of 21.5%. The cell was certified at the Newport’s Technology and Applications Centre PV Lab and confirmed by NREL.

Garabedian said: "While silicon technologies have approached their theoretical efficiency entitlement and leveled out in terms of performance and cost, First Solar continues to harvest the upside available from its superior thin film technology.

"Our CdTe modules are now more efficient than the best multi-crystalline Si modules, and we still have a great deal of technology head room for further innovation."

The CdTe product is designed to provide up to 8% more useable energy than m-Si module.