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JinkoSolar and Fraunhofer ISE break solar efficiency records for everyday solar panels

Solar panel manufacturer JinkoSolar has broken the record for solar cell efficiency for the most commonly used type of solar cells – 22.04% for a P-type multicrystalline product. Near concurrently, solar research facility Fraunhofer ISE has broken the record for n-type multicrystalline solar cells with an efficiency of 22.3%.

Multi(or poly)crystalline solar cells represent what has been mostly installed globally, and represents ~60% of current global production capacity. Multicrystalline solar panels tend to be in the 15-16.5% efficiency range these days, whereas mono range from 18-22%+. Multicrystalline  solar panels can generally be bought in the 30-45¢/W in larger volumes, whereas mono solar panels fill pricing ranging from 45¢-$1/W. Globally there has been a shift from multi to mono type products – one that is predicted to continue.

JinkoSolar’s record-breaking multi-crystalline silicon solar cell was manufactured on a high quality boron doped mc-Si substrate. Advanced texturing, passivation and anti-LID technologies were integrated into the passivated emitter rear contact (PERC) structure to achieve the new 22.04% world record. The new world record was independently confirmed by Fraunhofer ISE Germany and broke JinkoSolar’s previous record of 21.63% one year ago.

Also noted in the respective press releases was that the solar cell produced by JinkSolar is ‘practical sized’, while the Fraunhofer ISE product is ‘lab sized’.

Fraunhofer ISE’s record breaking cell was an N-type (versus P-type for Jinko’s) multicrystalline product. Much like there being a shift from multi to mono, there also seems to be a global movement toward n-type vs p-type.

Martin Hermle, Department Head of Advanced Development of High-Efficiency Silicon Solar Cells at Fraunhofer ISE said, “The key to our success was the holistic approach which enabled us to optimize all steps, from the crystallization up to the individual solar cell fabrication processes. The close and continual cooperation between the characterization, crystallization and the solar cell technology research teams at ISE allowed us to reduce the loss mechanisms step by step and successfully develop an optimized process chain.”

Love that the Fraunhofer ISE paragraph is worded this way. These are conscientious scientists with strong manufacturing process skills thinking about the long game of solar cell manufacturing. Fraunhofer ISE’s research lab recently announced the start of construction of a new facility for solar cell development.

Electrek’s Take

I am excited to see these two announcements – but one of them, JinkSolar’s, excites me just a bit more. The reason is that JinkoSolar is probably significantly closer and – by far – better placed to get these high-efficiency products into the market. From the JinkoSolar press release –

The entire manufacturing chain is comprised of low-cost industrial processes and will be gradually transferred into mass production. JinkoSolar has built a vertically integrated solar product value chain, with an integrated annual capacity of 6.0 GW for silicon ingots and wafers, 4.5 GW for solar cells, and 7.5 GW for solar modules, as of June 30, 2017.

First, making a cool new technology is awesome! Woo celebrate! Making a cool new technology that can then meet the needs of a 7.4 billion energy consumers on earth in the short-term – much more celebration. JinkoSolar sees a clear path that this technology, with its manufacturing processes, is ready to be integrated into current manufacturing lines. Fraunhofer ISE is, of course, designing with a similar mindset in place, but JinkoSolar has an extra layer – 6.0 GW for silicon ingots and wafers, 4.5 GW for solar cells, and 7.5 GW for solar modules – that is running right now. And you know that the scientists upstairs and the machine runners downstairs are continually communicating and integrating new research into manufacturing lines. Sweet to see global leading manufacturing corporations being at the cutting edge of the research as well.

As noted, the two products are differentiated by the P-Type vs N-Type attributes (the difference is chemistry folks, I get it from a high level – but here’s a link). I like that Fraunhofer ISE is aiming toward N-Type since, like the link above notes, N-Type seems to be future technology. JinkoSolar is probably more focused on the ‘older’ technology because that’s what its manufacturing lines are today, and upgrading to N-Type probably doesn’t make sense with those manufacturing lines.

I often talk of monoPERC solar cells in the morning EGEB column, this might be the first time I’ve seen multiPERC solar cells in the wild. I wonder how much of this multicrystalline record came from this new technology – PERC – which is fairly new in general, and mostly in mono products as of yet. If this PERC movement to multi products becomes a trend, then we ought see many other groups get a boost to their multi lines, at a fairly low-cost of relatively cheap (or so I’ve read) manufacturing line upgrade.

Header image from the ‘Hit me with your SunShot‘ photography contest. Researchers mount a PV module for performance testing in Fraunhofer CSE’s solar simulator dark tunnel. Photo by Fraunhofer CSE.

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