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Golden, Colo., April 2, 1997AstroPower, Inc., today announced it has fabricated a 16.6 percent efficient Silicon-Film solar cell as a result of government-industry collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
The record, set on a 1-square-centimeter cell, was attained under DOE's Photovoltaic Manufacturing Technology (PVMaT) program, a multi-year effort to help industry reduce the cost of producing photovoltaic energy systems.
"This advance builds on many successful photovoltaic technology projects funded by DOE," said Christine Ervin, DOE's assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy. "DOE is pleased to contribute to this environmentally clean, sustainable energy project. Energy is essential to our modern nation and U.S. technology can deliver a renewable energy product that will provide sustainable energy to millions of people in the U.S. and around the world."
The record surpasses the previous record of 14.6 percent for a Silicon-Film solar cell achieved on a 1-square-centimeter cell by the company in 1995. AstroPower is the only company to manufacture the Silicon-Film solar cells, which are produced in the company's high-speed, low-cost Silicon-Film continuous sheet process. Energy efficiency is the measure of how much sunlight striking a solar cell can be converted into electricity. The most common commercial photovoltaic solar systems today average 10 percent efficiency.
"The extraordinary thing about this cell improvement is that it can immediately be plugged into AstroPower's manufacturing process," said Ed Witt, NREL's PVMaT program manager. "This kind of progress reduces the cost of manufacturing solar energy technologies and that is the goal of federal investment in photovoltaic research."
AstroPower's goal under the DOE-industry partnership was to develop a 15.6 percent efficient solar cell by the end of 1997. According to the company, the performance increase from 14.6 to 16.6 percent is largely from an increase in short circuit current.
Dr. James A. Rand, director of advanced engineering at AstroPower, said the result and the rapid progress towards commercialization of Silicon-Film would not have been possible without the support of DOE and the PVMaT program.
The PVMaT program is designed to help U.S. industry improve photovoltaic manufacturing processes and equipment, accelerate photovoltaic manufacturing cost reductions for photovoltaic modules and systems and enhance investment opportunities for substantial scale-ups of U.S. based manufacturing plant capacities. AstroPower has been part of the PVMaT program for five years. NREL administers the program for DOE.
Dr. George Roland, president of AstroPower's solar power business, said "It has been our belief that the Silicon-Film process was capable of achieving efficiency levels comparable to other crystalline silicon technologies. We look forward to translating these laboratory results into efficiency improvements on our large area Silicon-Film solar cells."
AstroPower expects Silicon-Film solar cells and modules to be less expensive to manufacture than conventional crystalline silicon products and to have the stability, durability and performance critical to widespread market acceptance.
AstroPower is a privately owned specialty semiconductor company based in Newark, Del., specializing in photovoltaic energy conversion and related optoelectronic technology. The company manufactures and markets conventional single crystal solar cells and modules worldwide and is currently in pilot production with its Silicon-Film process.