SolarCity touts its new rooftop solar panels as most efficient in the world

Dive Brief:

  • SolarCity, the leading U.S. residential solar installer, will begin manufacturing a 22.04% efficient solar module, which co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Peter Rive called the world’s most efficient rooftop solar panel.
  • The company will begin making the new product at its 100 MW California facility in October and ramp up production when its Buffalo, New York, 1 GW facility comes online in early 2017.
  • The modules are built with a high efficiency cell technology developed by Silevo, which SolarCity acquired in 2014. They combine elements of two standard solar cell designs, increasing power 30% to 40% over current technologies without an increase in module size, according to Rive.

​Dive Insight:

The new modules' efficiency rating was certified by Renewable Energy Test Center, a respected third-party performance verification provider for the renewables industries. In ground-mounted utility-scale arrays, a bifacial capability will increase overall installation production by 10% to 15%, Rive said.

The 22.04% efficiency rating tops the product offering from San Jose-based SunPower, whose 21.5% efficient panels were considered the most efficient rooftop solar offering, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The efficiency rating refers to the proportion of the sun's energy a module converts into electricity.

Recently, though, SunPower says its panels have actually been more efficient, with average solar cell efficiency across all its lines close to 23% during the quarter, according to Greentech Media.

Whoever holds the record, it's clear the announcement is a positve one for the vertically-integrated model in the solar industry. With its acquisition of Silevo, SolarCity became the fourth vertically integrated U.S. solar mega-company, along with SunPower, SunEdison, and First Solar.

Silevo’s Triex solar cell design incorporates elements of standard crystalline silicon and newer thin film technologies. In testing, it reproduced an important capability of thin film modules by sustaining a high level of output at increased temperatures. This will allow an increased annual capacity factor by sustaining production in even the hottest desert settings.

The planned New York "Gigafactory" production of 9,000 modules to 10,000 modules per day will make the new module “the highest volume solar panel manufactured in the Western Hemisphere,” according to SolarCity.

SolarCity has maintained its grip on the residential solar industry, but its market share growth has stalled. It matched its 2014 performance in this year's first half by taking 34% of the market. The second biggest 1H 2015 installer was Vivint Solar, with a 12% market share. Sunrun was third, with a 3% share, according to GTM Research's Q3 2015 U.S. PV Leaderboard.

Filed Under: Solar & Renewables Distributed Energy Technology Corporate News