Over one-third efficient at converting sunlight into electricity—in real-world conditions—that’s what Amonix Inc. achieved earlier this year. The company announced Oct. 30 that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) tested its newest module in real-world conditions where it reached an outdoor operating efficiency rating of 33.5 percent, and peaked at 34.2 percent.
The level is the highest recorded for a concentrating photovoltaic device (CPV) or for that matter, a photovoltaic device in real-world testing and raises the bar over the previous record of 30.3 percent, which Amonix also held. While lab tests of PV or devices have reached higher efficiency levels, they’re usually with champion PV cells, sometimes just a centimeter square. Amonix’s devices are huge, each unit is bigger than an IMAX screen.
Each device consists of a series of magnifying lenses focusing sunlight on a multi-junction PV cell, concentrating the sunlight significantly. “The new 33.5 percent module efficiency was achieved through a combination of several improvements including cell and heat optimization and optics enhancements,” said Vahan Garboushian, Amonix founder and chief technical officer.
Amonix is working on its next generation of CPV systems, which will succeed its 7700 systems, but it’s not ready to introduce them yet, according to Garboushian. “Amonix continues to improve the efficiency of the overall system and these improvements will be implemented in the next generation of our CPV solar power system,” he said.
The test unit broke the record in May 2012, but Amonix is just now announcing it. “Amonix has always taken a conservative approach about announcements and wanted to ensure this record-breaking module efficiency received final acceptance internationally,” Garboushian said. The device was clarified as most efficient in both the Solar Cell Efficiency tables publication, NREL publication Opportunities and Challenges for Development of a Mature Concentrating Photovoltaic Power Industry. “Now that the efficiency is documented in several renowned publications, Amonix felt it was the best time to announce,” he said.