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Making Solar Cheaper

Recently a California-based company named Alta Devices announced the news that it had achieved a record for the efficiency of an individual solar cell.

Alta Devices have broken their own previous record of 23.5% and the new efficiency levels of 27.6% has been verified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Alta Devices makes solar panels using gallium arsenide. Gallium arsenide is a more efficient material than the silicon-based cells which are currently more prevalent.

To keep prices down the company uses remarkably small amounts of gallium and arsenic. This is done by creating layers of gallium arsenide only a micron thick.

The development of the new panels is still only in a pilot stage, but the company has apparently started to plan for full scale and commercial production. The company has crossed one major hurdle by setting a high conversion record, but moving this panel into the general market is another.

Yet every incremental improvement is a crucial step toward bringing solar power into a truly competitive range with fossil fuels.

The CEO of Alta Devices, Christopher Norris said in a press release “We are committed to using new scientific understanding, such as internal light generation and extraction, to push the limits of solar cell and module efficiencies while simultaneously driving production costs down through other important developments. The goal of achieving the $1 per installed watt target set by the Department of Energy has energized our entire company.”

The Department Of Energy’s goal he mentioned is part of the SunShot Initiative. The initiative aims to bring solar costs down to 5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

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