China's Suntech Achieves World Record PV Efficiency

Wuxi-based Suntech Power Holdings, a Chinese manufacturer of photovoltaic modules, recently announced that it had achieved a new world record conversion efficiency of 15.6% on a commercial grade multi-crystalline silicon PV module.

This conversion efficiency surpasses the previous record of 15.5% (aperture area only) set by Sandia National Labs 15 years ago. The multi-crystalline module conversion efficiency was independently tested by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Germany.

Suntech's world record breaking multi-crystalline silicon module is powered by Pluto PV cells utilizing solar grade silicon with each PV cell having a conversion efficiency well over 17%. The previous record was based on an aperture area or frameless module. In contrast, Suntech's new world record efficiency includes the framed area, without which Suntech believes it would have achieved a conversion efficiency of well over 16%.

The world record conversion efficiency was accepted by the scientific journal Progress in Photovoltaics, which offers a recognized forum for reporting advances in the PV industry.

Professor Martin Green, the research director of the ARC Photovoltaics Centre of Excellence at the University of New South Wales, Australia, and member of the PIP committee, commented that improving the conversion efficiency of multi-crystalline silicon modules has proven particularly challenging and that this was a very impressive achievement for such a large module from a commercial supplier. He confirmed that the 15.6% multi-crystalline module result is the highest known conversion efficiency measured by a PIP-recognized test center.

Dr. Stuart Wenham, Suntech's chief technology officer, stated that this was a tremendous result for Suntech and that it clearly demonstrated the power and versatility of the company's Pluto technology, which can be applied to both mono and multi-crystalline wafers. He pointed out that this module was produced on Suntech's commercial scale production lines using regular solar grade silicon and said that they believed that there is still room for more improvement in Pluto as they push the boundaries of technology development.

Suntech has initiated commercial shipments of Pluto powered modules and currently expects to ship 10MW to 15MW of Pluto products in 2009.

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