Not wanting to be left in the shade in this record-breaking year for solar cells, First Solar has reported that its test cadmium-telluride (CdTe) cells have reached 17.3% conversion efficiencies. The figure – confirmed by NREL – trumps the previous record of 16.7%, which was achieved back in 2001.

“This is a significant milestone that demonstrates the ongoing potential of our advanced thin-film technology,” noted Dave Eaglesham, Chief Technology Officer at First Solar. “This leap forward in R&D supports our efficiency roadmap for our production modules and will recalibrate industry expectations for the long-term efficiency potential of CdTe technology.”

Although test cells, First Solar noted that they were constructed using commercial-scale manufacturing equipment and materials. First Solar has recorded full-module efficiencies over 13.5%, with a 13.4% module confirmed by NREL in the past.

In the first quarter of 2011, First Solar reported manufacturing average module efficiencies of 11.7%.

“This achievement is a direct result of our industry-leading investment in research and development and our commitment to continuous improvement,” said Rob Gillette, CEO of First Solar. “First Solar’s innovation in both module technology and balance of systems engineering continues to drive us closer to grid parity.”