NREL Certifies Commercial Thin-Film Solar Modules at 15.7 Percent Efficiency

The one-meter-square commercial panels were independently certified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

MiaSolé, which manufactures copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) thin-film photovoltaic solar panels, announced that the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) independently confirmed the 15.7 percent efficiency of its large-area production modules, which are one square meter in size.

A module efficiency of 15.7 percent closely follows the previously announced 14.3 percent efficiency in September 2010. This is the highest efficiency demonstrated for commercial-size, thin-film modules and effectively closes the gap with polycrystalline silicon module efficiencies.

"This is a significant accomplishment as it represents the ability to manufacture full-scale CIGS modules with efficiencies equal to or better than that of polycrystalline silicon modules available in the world today, but manufactured at a thin-film cost structure. We are pleased that we are executing ahead of our roadmap for efficiency improvements and feel confident in our ability to bring high-efficiency CIGS technology to the marketplace,” said Joseph Laia, CEO of MiaSolé.

MiaSolé previously announced that it would start shipping its 13 percent efficiency modules in the second quarter of 2011 upon completion of UL and IEC certifications.

“This is a very exciting result, especially when it comes so soon after the previous 14.3 percent achievement from last September,” NREL solar researcher Rommel Noufi said. “An almost 1.5 percent absolute increase in efficiency in such a short time on a continuous roll-to-roll manufacturing line is impressive, and demonstrates good process-control and a validation of the MiaSolé approach.”

This achievement significantly narrows the efficiency gap between manufacturing performance and cells produced in the laboratory, which have reached 20.3 percent efficiency, Noufi pointed out. It also moves CIGS technology on its way to achieving the Department of Energy’s target of $1 per Watt Peak photovoltaic systems, he said.

MiaSolé now offers bank-financeable solar modules with efficiency comparable to polysilicon combined with the lower manufacturing costs of thin-film modules.

MiaSolé's unique manufacturing process deposits CIGS on a flexible stainless steel substrate and produces all of the layers required for its highly efficient solar cell in a single continuous process. MiaSolé is the only thin-film solar company that uses sputtering processes in every step of the coating process of the solar modules, thereby reducing manufacturing time and cost of production.

MiaSolé’s products are designed for utilities and independent power producers to use in industrial-scale deployments such as large-scale rooftop and ground-mount installations.