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New Materials Make Photovoltaics Better

• technologyreview.com

A startup called Solar Junction says its pilot manufacturing plant is producing solar cells units that are more efficient than the best ones on the market today. The advance, based on new semiconductor materials that the company has developed, could help make a type of solar power system called concentrated photovoltaics a far more attractive way to generate electricity from the sun.

Concentrated photovoltaic systems account for a small fraction of total solar power today—with only several megawatts of production capacity installed, compared to many gigawatts of capacity for conventional solar panels. They're limited to very sunny areas, where they compete with solar thermal, the cheapest form of solar power today, which uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight for the purpose of generating steam for steam turbines. Advances in solar cell efficiency have only recently made concentrated photovoltaic systems economical in some areas.

 

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