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Monday, 27 June 2011

Cheaper High-Efficiency Solar Panels

Technology Review
June 24, 2011

Chinese solar-panel manufacturer Suntech Power has developed a new process for making silicon wafers for solar cells that could cut the cost of solar power by 10 to 20 percent.

The most efficient silicon solar cells use wafers consisting of a single crystal of silicon. When made by the new process, these high-quality "monocrystalline" wafers cost about the same as lower-quality multicrystalline wafers, or potentially half as much as monocrystalline wafers made by conventional processes. (Wafer cost is only part of the cost of solar power, which is why a process that may cost half as much only reduces the overall cost by 10 to 20 percent.)

The idea underlying the process was patented more than 20 years ago but never commercially developed by the patent owners. The patents expired about three years ago, and several companies—JA Solar, LDK Solar, and Renesola, in addition to Suntech—recently announced that they had succeeded in making the process work.
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