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First Solar eclipses previous CdTe efficiency record


FIRST SOLAR says it has set the new world record for CdTe photovoltaic (PV) solar module efficiency, by beating its prior record of 13.4 percent. NREL confirms the cadmium telluride photovoltaic manufacturer’s module has reached 14.4 percent total area efficiency


The record performance, announced at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi comes just six months after First Solar leapfrogged the world record for CdTe solar cell efficiency with a mark of 17.3 percent. Both the cell and module record-setters were constructed using commercial-scale manufacturing equipment and materials at the Company’s Perrysburg, Ohio factory.


Cell efficiency measures the proportion of light converted to energy in a single solar cell, whereas total area module efficiency measures light conversion across a production-size, multi-cell solar module, providing a more realistic assessment of real-world performance than cell or aperture-area efficiency. “This considerable achievement supports our module efficiency roadmap and demonstrates our ability to convert our


record-cell technology into ongoing module-level improvements,” said Dave Eaglesham, First Solar’s Chief Technology Officer. “These records also underscore the tremendous ongoing potential of CdTe compared to silicon-based technologies.”


First Solar updated its module efficiency roadmap in December 2011 to the increased goal of 14.5 - 15 percent average efficiency for its production modules by the end of 2015. The process improvements developed for the record- setting cell and module continue to be implemented as part of that roadmap. The average efficiency of First Solar modules increased from 11.4 percent in 2010 to 11.7 percent in 2011 and is expected to reach 12.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012.


“Our continuous investment in R&D has enabled the steady progress of our technology, punctuated by landmark achievements such as this,” said Mike Ahearn, Chairman and interim CEO of First Solar. “Our consistent progress gives us confidence in our ability to achieve our roadmap goals, drive down costs and develop sustainable markets.”


GaAs IC market grew only 1% WEAK wireless demand resulted in nearly


stagnant growth in GaAs ICs in 2011, according to the report “The GaAs IC Market,” recently published by The Information Network, a Tripoli, PA-based market research company.


“Every cell phone contains Power Amplifiers (PAs), which enable the handset to transmit voice and data back to the base station tower to route a call to another phone number or Internet address. PAs, the most critical radio frequency component in the phone are currently dominated by circuits made with GaAs,” noted Robert Castellano, president of The Information Network.


GaAs ICs grew 1% in 2011 following a 36% in 2010, as a result of weak demand in wireless, cell phones and WiFi. This represents the smallest growth since a


First Solar, which has manufactured more than 5 GW of its advanced thin-film modules, utilises a continuous manufacturing process, which transforms a sheet of glass into a complete solar module in less than 2.5 hours. This reduces the payback time and helps contribute to a low carbon footprint of systems using its PV modules.


The firm also implemented the industry’s first comprehensive, prefunded solar module collection and recycling program. Anyone wishing to dispose of First Solar modules can request collection at any time, at no additional cost, and First Solar will pick up the modules and recycle up to 90% (by mass) of the material for use in new products, including new solar modules and new glass products.


1.7% gain in 2009. 3G handsets often contain up to five PAs, and GaAs makes up 100% of the market, which is close to $5 billion. In addition, the number of PAs per handset is growing because of: complex 3G systems, global roaming support, and data roaming support. Pricing for PA’s has increased from $0.80 per handset to $2.90 currently and is projected to increase to greater than $3.50 once Long Term Evolution (LTE) and Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum emerge in advanced handsets in the marketplace. While industrialised countries are using 3G networks, today’s world is a mixture of 2/2.5G and 3G networks, the heavy majority of subscribers are actually on 2G-based networks — and predicted to remain so for a number of years. Of the new handsets sold in 2010, about 50% will still be 2G. Between 70 to 80% of Skyworks’ and RF


8 www.compoundsemiconductor.net January/February 2012


Micro Device’s GaAs business is in PAs. 2G handsets contain 1 PA, so it represents a sizable market. Because they aren’t as advanced as 3G cell phones, particularly smartphones, silicon is making inroads in the GaAs domain. For 2011, only 90% of PAs were made in GaAs, 5% in silicon CMOS, and 5% in silicon LDMOS.


Besides the technical dynamics, Skyworks has positioned in the market by its mid- 2009 acquisition of CMOS PA supplier Axiom Micro Devices. Also, in September 2009, privately held Black Sand announced the world’s first 3G CMOS RF PA. Black Sand’s proprietary CMOS PA architecture offers a breakthrough in combined performance, cost, battery life, and reliability for mobile devices. Other CMOS PA companies of note include Javelin and Amalfi. Another firm rumoured to be working on CMOS PAs is ACCO.


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