Suntech pushes Pluto tech to 19% efficiency on monocrystalline solar cells, 17% on multi cells

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Suntech Power Holdings said it is “routinely” using the Pluto technology to produce solar PV cells with conversion efficiencies of approximately 19% on monocrystalline silicon cells and 17% on multicrystalline cells. The company also confirmed that third-party test results from the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Germany show conversion efficiencies of 18.8% for monocrystalline cells and 17.2% for the multicrystalline cells manufactured on Suntech’s 34MW Pluto production line.

The patent-pending Pluto approach, based on the PERL (passivated emitter with rear locally diffused) cell technology, has been developed by the University of New South Wales in Australia and has achieved world-record lab efficiencies of 25%. Researchers believe that the Pluto design can push power output by approximately 12% above conventional screen-printed cells.

A low-reflectivity texturing technology ensures that more photons can be absorbed throughout the day even without direct solar radiation, and thinner metal lines on the top surface reduce shading loss.

“We are consistently achieving around 19% conversion efficiency on Pluto monocrystalline PV cells and around 17% on Pluto multicrystalline PV cells in large-scale production, compared to 16.5% and 15.5%, respectively, using conventional screen-printed technology,” said Stuart Wenham, Suntech’s CTO. “The ability of the Pluto technology to significantly improve the conversion efficiency of both mono- and multicrystalline silicon PV cells is one of its unique characteristics. This will give Suntech the flexibility to offer a complete range of high-efficiency solar products.

“In particular, we believe that Suntech’s multicrystalline Pluto modules will be one of the most efficient multicrystalline silicon PV modules in commercial-scale production.”

“Pluto delivers on the key requirements of the solar industry–high efficiency, high stability, and high power output–without utilizing higher grades of silicon,” stated Zhengrong Shi, company chairman/CEO. “With Pluto-enabled Suntech products, our customers will realize improvements in space utilization and reduced balance of system costs, without increasing the cost of production, making Pluto well-suited to commercial-scale production and rooftop applications.”

“The commercialization of the Pluto technology is the result of years of world-class research and development and is a milestone achievement for Suntech,” he added. “With over 350 professionals in our R&D team spanning three countries, technology is a central element of our strategy to drive the cost of solar toward grid parity without incentives.

“Aside from developing high conversion efficiency PV cells, our R&D team is also engaged in the development of new solar applications and building-integrated products, material and component optimization, encapsulation technology, and power output optimization and stabilization.”

Suntech believes that ongoing enhancement of the Pluto technology will, within two years, lead to 20% conversion efficiency on monocrystalline cells and 18% on multicrystalline cells. The company’s 34MW Pluto PV cell line is fully operational; it expects to have a 100MW of installed Pluto capacity within two months.

Suntech also said it expects to receive industry certification for Pluto-based modules in the 2Q and plans to ship more than 50MW of the modules in 2009.

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