CIGS Solar Cells Efficiency Rises

This is an informative bit of commentary that confirms my surmise that the labs are rushing into production on the basis of producing ten percent efficiency. That is the bare minimum for the beginning of application work.

Nanosolar is not planning limited quantities and they just announced that they have achieved operational breakeven on their present sales. Normally, I am skeptical of early days pronouncements about sales and earnings, but this company is clearly running hard to become the front runner and actually expect that their advisors would insist that they under promise and over produce.

It is also clear that their press coverage is nicely expanding and I have seen no challenges to date. But then their backers are intimidating. Obviously an early IPO is in the works for this company.

The more important point is that 20 percent efficiency is a done deal which makes it directly competitive the best silica and the theoretical thirty percent target is becoming very real.

Other lab work is also opening up exploitation of the full visible spectrum and also the infrared spectrum, allowing much more energy to be converted.

Nanosolar has clearly broken the cost barrier of $1.00 per watt or less. Now we need to maximize efficiencies to maximize the ease of application.

Amazingly, this is still all happening offstage from the mainstream media. Yet in 1970, I explained to my cousin that we would have a machine on a desk inside of a decade and that communication between machines would come shortly after. I then suggested that all human knowledge would become machine based and accessible in the nineties. And this would generate an explosion of knowledge and innovation. I merely failed to imagine that anyone would care besides us academic types.

We are about to be swamped with local cheap energy and the nice problem of finding ways to use it. We can now proceed by actually terraforming the Earth and turning most of it into a well managed garden.

Michael Kanellos

Rumor: New Record in CIGS Efficiency October 23, 2008 at 9:34 AM

The National Renewable Energy Labs (NREL) has upped the bar in copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar cells once again, sources tell me. NREL scientists have developed a CIGS cell with 20.2 percent efficiency, inching past the 19.9 percent cell the lab announced in March. I’ve called NREL but haven’t heard word back on confirmation.

That number helps explain why VCs and investment banks continue to pour money into CIGS. Potentially, CIGS cells have the ability to convert more sunlight into power than other thin-film technologies like cadmium telluride and amorphous silicon. Cadmium telluride solar cells have a theoretical maximum of around 19.6 percent and commercial cad tel cells have an efficiency of around 10 percent. (We said nine earlier.) CIGS can also be printed, say advocates, on cheap, flexible substrates that can be integrated into building products. Cad tel solar cells, to date, need a glass substrate, which limits cad tel to rooftop applications.

CIGS cells are being produced in limited quantities around the 10 percent efficiency mark and theoretically CIGS cells could get into the mid-20 percentile or even low-30 percentile range someday.

Some of the leading CIGS companies include: Nanosolar, Solyndra, SoloPower, HelioVolt and Miasole. There are newcomers too:
Telio Solar and NuvoSun.

Still, the stakes are high. Nearly a billion dollars have been invested in CIGS startups in the past couple of years and most of them have yet to start commercial production. Many companies have had to delay their CIGS solar cells due to manufacturing issues. (Chemically, the elements don’t play well together either — it’s the solar equivalent of trying to pull off a Guns N’ Roses reunion.) Even the large companies doing CIGS and CIS cells like Honda haven’t exactly been cranking these things out of the factory.

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