SunPower issued a press release this morning revealing they have broken the world record for the most efficient solar panel by creating one with a 20.4 percent total area efficiency.
The prototype is a 96-cell, 333-watt module featuring SunPower 3rd generation solar cells. These cells are at least 23 percent efficient each, however the overall efficiency of the panel drops as the cells are connected to each other, bringing the total down to 20.4 percent. Commercial availability of these panels is expected within 24 months.
The prototype was successfully developed using funds provided by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under its Solar America Initiative (SAI), which was awarded to SunPower approximately two years ago. The efficiency rating was confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), an independent testing facility.
The most efficient solar panel commercially available today has a total area efficiency of 19.3 percent and is also made by SunPower. The SPR-315 is a 96-cell module and is approximately twice as efficient as thin-film modules. This means they will produce double the amount of power in the same area (square footage) as thin-film modules, ultimately allowing customers to maximize production given their total roof space.