NREL confirms 11% conversion efficiency for SoloPower flexible CIGS PV modules

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The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory has confirmed that flexible CIGS solar panels manufactured on SoloPower’s pilot production line have achieved aperture conversion efficiencies of 11% during tests at the lab’s Golden, CO, facility–the highest efficiencies yet achieved by a full-size flex module. NREL had previously verified 13.4% efficiencies on the company’s 11.8cm2 lab cells.

SoloPower, which made a strategic decision to focus on the development and manufacture of flexible CIGS modules, also said that it has submitted its flex panels for independent laboratory certification to standard UL1703, following successful internal verification that included damp-heat testing.

SoloPower uses a proprietary electroplating-based process to manufacture its CIGS cells on flexible metal foil. The devices are then processed in a moduling line and laminated in an encapsulation system that provides a moisture barrier and environmental integrity.

The company expects the low-cost, high-efficiency module to address the commercial and industrial rooftop and distributed solar power generation markets.

“We have focused on the development of innovative, lightweight flexible modules that are rugged and add significant value in commercial and industrial rooftop applications, utility-scale ground-mounted facilities, and the emerging building-integrated PV market,” said Arthur Rudin, SoloPower’s VP of marketing. “The verification of our superior aperture efficiency by NREL affirms our belief that our products will become the solution-of-choice for suppliers in this exciting market.”

Mustafa Pinarbasi, SVP of technology development, added that “these results are based on the company’s simultaneous advances in many separate disciplines, including thin-film process and cell structure, roll-to-roll manufacturing, module design and implementation, as well as encapsulation and testing. Our team has worked diligently to provide world-class solutions to the challenging problems encountered in all of these critical areas.”
 
Company president/CEO Tim Harris told PV Tech during a facility visit last week that the UL tests on the SoloPower batch of modules should be completed by early summer.

Once certification occurs, he explained that the CIGS firm will build out and ramp volume manufacturing on a new 75-100MW production line in its facility in Edendale Technology Park in southern San Jose. Tools for the first high-volume R2R line, which will run a meter-wide foil web, will be ordered next month, according to the SoloPower exec.

In the meantime, shipments from the company’s 10MW pilot line (which runs a one-third-meter wide web) continue to be sent to customers, with several supply deals to be announced soon, he said.

SoloPower is also waiting on a decision by the U.S. Department of Energy on a federal loan guarantee, a process that Harris described as “going real well.”

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