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Efficiency record isn’t the biggest change for Alta Devices’ GaAS solar technology

From pv magazine USA

Solar power’s development was greatly influenced by spaceflight, as solar power was the only practical source of long-term electricity in low-earth orbit. Sputnik, the world’s first satellite, stopped transmitting after three weeks when the chemical batteries failed. The USA’s first satellite, also battery powered, lasted a few months.

The below satellite, the Vanguard 3, is from the family of the first satellites to utilize solar power. The Vanguard 1 delivered data from 1958 into 1965. And it was this satellite that made us believe in the potential of space.

Starting from these expensive, and challenging, markets – cost effective solar modules for our rooftops and fields have evolved. However, while the general populace’s focus – and financier’s – has shifted to those bigger markets, these more demanding markets still exist, are expanding and are at the cutting edge of solar photovoltaic technology.

Alta Devices has received certification of a new world record efficiency for a single junction solar cell (specification page – pdf). The Fraunhofer ISE CalLab certified the solar cell at 29.1%. This value is 0.2% higher than Alta Devices’ (outlined in red below) prior noted record in NREL’s Best Research-Cell Efficiencies (pdf) charts. Alta Devices told pv magazine that manufacturing samples of the product are regularly in the 27% range.

The solar industry is going through aggressive changes right now. For the longest time, SunPower’s X Series stood far beyond all others, with a greater than 24% efficient solar cell and over 22% solar module. However, its price matched this premium efficiency.

Standard solar modules have seen efficiencies increase toward 20% with PERC mono-silicon technologies leading that race into the mainstream. Right now, LONGi holds the record with a 23.6% solar cell and a 20.83% solar module.

These technologies are, for now, the ones that matter because they’re what’s getting installed in much of the 112 GW being deployed in 2019. However, there’s reason to think that the future holds a place for Alta Devices and other higher efficiency technologies.

Whether it is perovskite breaking through from the labs, multiple junction products figuring out pricing issues, or something completely out of the world, there’s money and expertise flowing and learning curves aplenty in many directions as the industry continues its global growth.

Source: pv magazine