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NREL Unveils Look at Most Efficient Solar Modules

March 15, 2019

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which regularly publishes a chart of the world’s most efficient solar cells, has introduced a new chart of record-efficiency solar modules.

The initial Champion Module Efficiencies chart contains 73 data points, dating to 1988, and broken out into 19 different technologies. The records range from an organic photovoltaic (PV) module with an 8.2 percent efficiency that was developed by Toshiba to a 40.6 percent efficient hybrid four-junction module from the University of New South Wales.

Chart of champion module efficiency versus years, with 24 curves that all start low to the left and rise approximately linearly to the upper right The Champion Module Efficiencies chart will be updated regularly.

“This chart enables researchers, policymakers, and the PV industry to track the progress and trends of the different PV technologies over time at the commercial scale,” said Dean Levi, manager of the Cell and Module Performance group at NREL’s National Center for Photovoltaics. Levi added that the Champion Module Efficiencies chart is complementary to NREL’s world renowned Best Research-Cell Efficiencies chart. While advancing the efficiency of PV cells at the research scale is essential to technological progress, the benefits of these advances are only realized in practice when those efficiency gains come to fruition in commercially produced PV modules.

In addition to showcasing the efficiency of various technologies, the new chart provides color coding to enable viewers to distinguish the size of the modules, from mini-modules at 200-800 square centimeters to the large commercial modules at more than 14,000 square centimeters.

Levi co-authored a journal article last year, “Historical Analysis of Champion Photovoltaic Module Efficiencies,” that provided the basis for the creation of the new chart. Published in IEEE Journal of Photovoltaics, the article noted that focused efforts on improving the structure of solar cell are important, and ultimately those advances must be incorporated into a module.

Like the cell efficiency chart, the module chart is always available to download at Both charts are updated at least four times per year.