Suntech sets world record 20.3% efficiency with new solar cell

Suntech Power Holdings (STPquote), the world’s largest producer of solar panels, announced March 12 that its Pluto cell technology set a world record 20.3% efficiency for a production cell using standard commercial-grade p-type silicon wafers.

Pluto cells compared to standard cells.

With further optimization, the efficiency of the improved Pluto cell technology is projected to reach 21.0% in the next 6 – 12 months. Commercial solar panels typically report an efficiency of 19%, though research labs have produced experimental cells with much higher efficiencies.

Pluto cells use a texturing process that improves sunlight absorption, even in conditions of low and indirect light.

“This technology breakthrough marks another critical milestone in our effort to improve solar cell efficiency, which will ultimately make solar competitive with fossil fuels,” said Dr. Stuart Wenham, Suntech’s Chief Technology Officer. “Technology innovation is imbued in Suntech’s DNA, and as a global solar technology leader, our more than 400 R&D professionals around the world, including Australia, are committed to continually improve how we harness solar energy.”

Suntech needs all the efficiency improvement it can get. The company lost $1 billion in 2011 due to excess capacity and changes in European and American subsidies.

Investors looking for exposure to a broad spectrum of Chinese solar technology companies should look at the Guggenheim Solar ETF (TANquote), which devotes 4.12% of its holdings to Suntech.

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