First Solar Inc (FSLR) has hit another efficiency record for its thin film solar cells, and has announced that they will incorporate the new methods into their manufacturing process starting next quarter. First Solar will use their efficiency gain to compete against cost reductions by Chinese solar companies. Their new thin-film cells convert 17.3 percent of sunlight into electricity and they feel that when put into mass production, their cells will hit 15.3 percent on average. That’s a big jump for First Solar – they currently are producing and selling thin film cells that generate electricity at an average rate of about 11.7 percent efficiency.
First Solar already has the lowest costs in the solar industry – they produce their cadmium telluride solar panels for 73 cents per watt. These new efficiency improvements will help reduce their costs further, letting First Solar compete even better with traditional silicon based photovoltaic solar panels, which get higher efficiency but cost more.