Solar panel manufacturer Amonix has announced that its concentrated photovoltaic technology has set a new efficiency record; their module achieved a conversion rate of 33.5%, which meets a long-standing Department of Energy goal for solar technologies to achieve an efficiency of “one third of the sun.” Moreover, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has successfully tested the Amonix modules at an even higher efficiency rate of 34.2%, considered the “highest ever [efficiency] reached by a photovoltaic module under real-world conditions.”
Amonix uses concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) technology, which utilizes optical devices such as mirrors and lenses to concentrate more direct sunlight onto individual solar cells. This technology allows the manufacturer to use a smaller amount of silicon and other semiconductor materials and in turn creates an opportunity to use a higher caliber of semiconductors to produce an more efficient solar module, while sticking to the same budget.
The CPV solar technology requires no water in power production and produces more energy per acre than any other solar technology, thereby using less land to produce the same amount of power as a traditional photovoltaic system. The CPV technology only works with direct sunlight, which makes it an attractive technology for markets like Phoenix or Nevada, but less so for locations such as Seattle or Portland.
Amonix’s breakthrough with power production efficiency couldn’t have come at a better time. The company received $6 million in federal tax credits in 2007 to open a manufacturing plant in North Las Vegas. But that plant failed and was forced to close in July of this year. The manufacturer had also received $15.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for research and development and at least these funds seem to have come to fruition as evidenced by this record efficiency milestone.
What’s next for the manufacturer? According to its founder and chief technology officer Vahan Garboushian, “Amonix is focused on driving CPV costs down and breaking [more] efficiency records in the near future.”