Solar panel manufacturer MiaSolé said Thursday that its large-area copper indium gallium selenide, or CIGS, thin-film photovoltaic solar panels were certified at 15.7 percent efficiency, the highest level for commercial-size modules to date.
The milestone, which was independently certified by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, is important because it closes the gap between the technology, which is comparatively inexpensive to produce, and the more popular but less versatile polycrystalline silicon modules.
It also narrows the gap between what's coming off the production line and what's cooking in the lab, where cells have reached 20.3 percent efficiency, the company said.
MiaSolé makes its solar modules by depositing CIGS on a flexible stainless steel substrate, producing all of the layers necessary for its solar cell in a single continuous process. The company says this "sputtering" process reduces manufacturing time and production costs.
In September, MiaSolé demonstrated 14.3 percent efficiency. The company has promised to begin shipping 13 percent efficiency modules to utilities and independent power producers in Q2 2011.
The ultimate goal is to meet the DOE's target of $1 per watt peak.