The Australian National University has cemented its and Australia’s role as a key player in global solar energy innovation with the unveiling of a new high-efficiency solar cell, developed through a joint venture with Chinese solar PV giant Trina Solar.
The product of two years’ research at the ANU Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems – a world-class R&D facility known for its development of Sliver solar cells, nano PV technology and hybrid PV/thermal parabolic trough concentrator systems – the laboratory-scale Interdigitated Back Contact (“IBC”) solar cell has been independently tested to deliver an efficiency of 24.4%, putting it in the league of the most efficient solar cells to date.
In an announcement on Tuesday, Trina described the collaborative achievement – the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) was also involved, via contract with Trina – as a “milestone in solar cell research.”
Attention will now turn to developing a commercial version of the solar cell, as well as an IBC PV module. Trina says a 125mm by 125mm commercial cell has already reached an efficiency greater than 22 per cent, and 238W for an IBC PV module (based on 72 cells) – both of which have been independently tested.
Trina also said it expected the IBC solar cell to be ready for industrialised mass production soon.
Professor Andrew Blakers, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems at the ANU Research School of Engineering, said the ANU has been working towards developing highly efficient back contact silicon solar cells with both positive and negative metallic contacts on the rear surface.
The technology, says Blakers, allows the surface facing the sun to be uniformly black, without the metal electrodes present on most solar cells – an attribute which makes modules look better, while more importantly increasing electricity uptake per unit area.
“The results mean the laboratory cell technology can now be further developed for commercial solar cells,” Blakers said. “The work is expected to lead to commercial solar cells with improved efficiency, allowing more power to be generated from a given area of rooftop solar module.”
Trina, meanwhile, said it was “delighted” to collaborate with the ANU’s leading scientists. “We remain committed to engaging in effective partnerships with the best PV research centers, which are fundamental to delivering R&D breakthroughs,” said Pierre Verlinden, Vice-President and Chief Scientist of Trina Solar.
The Chinese PV giant posted a positive set of FY 2013 results on Tuesday, with a 36.9 per cent increase in total net revenues on the previous corresponding period to $1.77 billion.
Driven by a weighty increase in PV module shipments – 2.58GW of modules were shipped in 2013, compared to just 1.59 GW in 2012 – the company generated a gross profit of $218.2 million and a gross margin of 12.3 per cent.
Despite this, Trina still managed to operate at a loss of $43.8 million in 2013, with a net loss for the full year coming in at $77.9 million – an improvement, albeit, on the losses of 2012.
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