Energy and Natural Resources

IEEE Interactive: Record-Breaking PV Cells

16 November 2016

There’s often a lot of hype when solar companies claim to set new records. But to see how different PV technologies really stack up, it’s important to compare standardized and independent efficiency tests.

IEEE Spectrum presents the records that have been independently verified by the world’s three leading independent labs, the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), and Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE).

For an explanation of the cell types, cell categories, and additional analysis, please see “What Makes a Good PV Technology?”

IEEE Spectrum recently partnered with the test labs to create an interactive and updated history of record-breaking photovoltaic (PV) cells. While the full charts are designed to serve as a comprehensive reference for the industry, the data is also useful for understanding the current and future state of solar technology.

Because manufacturing lags laboratory discoveries by many years, most of today’s commercial photovoltaic cells are based on just a handful of the oldest technologies. But there are many ways to turn sunlight into energy—in fact, the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) currently maintains records for 27 different types of PV cells.

Researchers at national labs, universities, and private companies continue to explore new types of cells and push the capabilities of existing ones, because we’ve yet to find an ideal technology.

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