First Solar Panel Reaches
by Christopher Martin
First Solar Inc., the world's largest maker of thin-film solar products, beat its own record for making the most efficient panels.
The company used factory equipment to produce cadmium telluride panels that convert 14.4 percent of the energy in sunlight into electricity, it said in a statement yesterday. The results surpassed the previous record of 13.4 percent, also with a First Solar panel, and were confirmed by the U.S. Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Lab.
First Solar's efficiency rates for panels in commercial production reached 12.4 percent at some manufacturing lines in the third quarter. At that conversion rate, Chairman Michael Ahearn, who stepped in as the Tempe, Arizona-based company's interim chief executive officer in October, has said he can produce panels for less than 70 cents a watt.
The company announced in July a record 17.3 percent conversion rate for a solar cell in a lab. Modules, which are typically assembled from dozens of cells, are less efficient in part because some sunlight reflects off glass panel casings.
Panels in full production typically have lower conversion rates than those developed in controlled settings.
First Solar rose 1.6 percent to $40.56 at 9:42 a.m. in New York.
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