The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has verified Alta Devices’ most recent and highest efficiency solar panel at 23.5%. The technology used for these panels was unveiled at PVSC37, Seattle, US, in June last year. The company announced its solar cell conversion efficiencies resulted from harnessing the high efficiency of gallium arsenide (GaAs) in cost effective ways.
Alta states it chose to focus on GaAs because of its intrinsic efficiency advantages as well as its ability to generate electricity at high temperatures and in low light. GaAs is known for being expensive to produce and as a result, Alta has invented a manufacturing technique enabling extremely thin layers of GaAs that are a fraction of the thickness of earlier GaAs solar cells. Alta’s cells are about one micron thick (a human hair is approximately 40 microns thick). Alta claims the cost of the material needed in its panels remains low and the potential costs of an entire solar energy system based on Alta’s technology could be dramatically reduced.
The company asserts that the size and flexibility of its panels demonstrates its potential to be integrated in wholly unique ways and into a variety of applications – including roof and building materials and numerous military, consumer and transportation products.
Christopher Norris, Alta president and CEO, said, “Our goal is to optimize the production economics of solar so that it is competitive with fossil fuels, without subsidies, leading to broad adoption of solar generated electricity.”
According to Norris, Alta is making substantial progress on the build-out of its pilot manufacturing line, which uses mostly off-the-shelf equipment with some proprietary optimizations unique to Alta’s process. Furthermore, Alta is starting to plan for full-scale production, with activities such as building strategic manufacturing partnerships and selecting its first large, commercial manufacturing site.
Alta investor, Andy Rappaport of August Capital, said, “Alta has perfectly and very systematically met its plan for achieving and then continually improving on record efficiency since the company was first funded. This consistency of technical accomplishment, building on the potential inherent in Alta’s core technology, confirms our belief that the company will change the landscape of solar energy deployment.”