A concentrator solar cell produced by Boeing subsidiary Spectrolab has achieved a record breaking energy conversion efficiency of 40.7%.
By using an optical concentrator, sunlight intensity is increased, squeezing more electricity out of a single solar cell. The new cell is also based on a multi-junction solar cell, which captures a wider spectrum of light.
Dr. David Lillington, president of Spectrolab said: “This solar cell performance is the highest efficiency level any photovoltaic device has ever achieved. The terrestrial cell we have developed uses the same technology base as our space-based cells. So, once qualified, they can be manufactured in very high volumes with minimal impact to production flow.”
Currently, Spectrolab’s terrestrial concentrator cells are generating 33 kW in a full-scale concentrator system in the Australian desert.
Development of the high-efficiency concentrator cell technology was funded by the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) High Performance Photovoltaics programme and Spectrolab. NREL also verified the milestone. The may lead to systems with an installed cost of $3/W, producing electricity at a cost of ¢8-10/kWh, those close to the project claim.
“These results are particularly encouraging since they were achieved using a new class of metamorphic semiconductor materials, allowing much greater freedom in multijunction cell design for optimal conversion of the solar spectrum,” said Dr Richard King, principal investigator of the high efficiency solar cell research and development effort. “The excellent performance of these materials hints at still higher efficiency in future solar cells,” he added.