New Concentrated Solar PV Mini-Module Efficiency Record Set

Mini-module CPV efficiency record

Germany’s Fraunhofer ISE has broken its own record for the conversion of sunlight into electricity using concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) systems.

Announced on Tuesday, the Fraunhofer ISE team state they achieved a confirmed world record of 43.4 percent for a mini-module consisting of four-junction solar cells.

“This value is a new milestone in the history of CPV technology and demonstrates the potential available for industrial implementation,” said Dr. Andreas Bett, Deputy Director of the Institute and Division Director of Materials, Solar Cells and Technology at Fraunhofer ISE.

The team appear confident this won’t be the end of efficiency improvements using the method, the details of which will be presented at the CPV12 International Conference on Concentrator Photovoltaic Systems  in Freiburg, Germany from 25-27 April.

While it’s exciting news for CPV supporters, all is not well in the sector.

According to a recently released report published by Fraunhofer ISE and the USA’s NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory), the CPV industry is in the midst of a severe crisis. Manufacturing capacities plummeted last year due to the closure of a couple of major facilities.

While CPV brings a number of benefits, the primary challenge cited by the industry is the difficulty CPV experiences in competing with conventional solar panels.

“CPV companies expect that this technology can compete on an LCOE basis with flat-plate PV when installed in sunny areas, but the road to scale has been difficult,” states the report.

LCOE stands for Levelised Cost Of Electricity, which is the average total cost of a power generation facility over its serviceable life divided its total electricity output during that time.

Approximately 360MW of concentrated photovoltaics is in place globally, with more than 90% of that capacity in the form of high concentration PV (HCPV) using dual-axis tracking.

The attractiveness of CPV lies in economic concentrating optics that enable the use of reduced cell areas and high efficiency solar cells. CPV is best suited to regions experiencing Direct Normal Irradiance (DNI) values of more than 2000 kWh/m2a.

The full report, “Current Status Of Concentrator Photovoltaic (CPV) Technology” can be viewed here (PDF).

With a staff of more than 1200, Fraunhofer ISE is the largest solar energy research institute in Europe and the second largest in the world.