German and French researchers reach new record in solar CPV efficiency


A team of researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg, Germany — the largest solar research institute in Europe — has announced a new world record in module efficiency of 36.7%, the best value ever achieved for a concentrator photovoltaic module (CPV).

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According to the press release by the Fraunhofer Institute, the researchers have been developing the new CPV module technology dubbed FLATCON for years.

Using Fresnel lenses to reap, bundle and focus sunlight on highly-efficient solar cells, they managed to reach this milestone.

The concentrating lens was adapted to a new wafer bonding solar cell structure that was developed by Soitec, a CPV developer from France.

With the new solar cell, sunlight was concentrated by a factor of 230 suns onto fifty-two 7 mm^2 miniature solar cells, with the help of fifty-two 16 cm^2 Fresnel lenses manufactured by the industry partner ORAFOL Fresnel Optics and based on a new design developed at Fraunhofer ISE.

“Naturally we are incredibly excited about this high module efficiency,” says Dr Andreas Bett, who has led the CPV research at Fraunhofer ISE over many years. For his efforts Bett has received many awards, among them the German Environmental Award 2012, together with Hansjörg Lerchenmüller of Soitec Solar.

“This success shows that the high efficiencies of Soitec’s novel four-junction solar cells can be transferred to the module level.”

The successful transfer of this high module efficiency to commercially manufactured modules is expected within one to two years.

CPV systems are installed in sun-rich regions where they are able to produce solar electricity for less than 8 eurocents per kilowatt-hour.