First Time that More Than 1/3 of Sun's Energy is Converted to ElectricityMaking solar panels that are as efficient as possible at turning sunlight into electricity is very important. It's a way to bring costs down (you need fewer solar cells for a given output) and keep the footprint of solar installations to a minimum. It's a long and arduous process of incremental improvement, and each tenth of a percentage point is hard fought.
The latest efficiency record was achieved for concentrating solar (you make sunlight go through lenses or curved mirrors to multiply its intensity) by a startup called Semprius. Their technology uses lenses to concentrate the sun's rays on tiny but very high-performance solar panels. The actual solar cells might only be a few square millimeters, but the lenses provide them with light that is as intense as 1,100 suns, so what they lack in surface they make up in intensity and efficiency.
Confirmed by the Instituto de Energía Solar of Madrid
So the new concentrating solar record is 33.9%, which is 1.9% higher than the previous record. An impressive feat!
The module was tested indoors at Standard Test Conditions (850 W/m2, 25°C cell temperature, and a spectrum matched to AM1.5D) by the Instituto de Energía Solar at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (IES-UPM). This efficiency result, certified by the IES-UPM and corroborated by outdoor measurements made at the Institute of Concentration Photovoltaic Systems (ISFOC) in Puertollano, Spain, significantly exceeds the previous claim of 32.0 percent.
“This is a significant milestone for Semprius and the entire PV industry,” said Scott Burroughs, vice president of Technology at Semprius. “For the first time, we have been able to convert more than one-third of the sun’s energy into usable electricity. This demonstrates how concentrated PV can leverage rapidly increasing efficiencies to continue driving down the cost of solar generated electricity.”