SunPower achieves new solar efficiency record

Total offered $2.4 billion for a majority stake in SunPower.

Total offered $2.4 billion for a majority stake in SunPower.

SunPower Corp. announced Wednesday that it produced a full-scale solar cell with a sunlight-to-electricity conversion efficiency rate of 24.2 percent — that is, 24.2 percent of the sunlight that hits the cell is converted into electricity.

This is a new world record, confirmed by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Lab, for large-area silicon wafers. Industry average for silicon-based solar technology is around 20 percent.

SunPower, which is based in Silicon Valley and has its Northwest regional office in Portland, achieved the milestone at its manufacturing plant in the Philippines.

"Our patented and proprietary, high-efficiency solar cell technology drives down the cost of solar energy by increasing the energy production from each solar panel," said Bill Mulligan, vice president of technology and development for SunPower in a press release.

Improved cell efficiency reduces the cost of energy by increasing the amount of energy produced from each cell — it also brings solar energy closer to parity with carbon-based energy sources.

Greentech Media wonders if the milestone announcement means that the industry is close to squeezing maximum efficiency out of crystalline silicon solar panels, limiting the chance of future innovation.


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