How Efficient Can Solar Get?

By Ucilia Wang in Greentech Media, January 7 2010

In solar, how high is high?

With a worldwide glut of factory capacity, solar cell manufacturers will likely increasingly turn toward improving the efficiency of their products to improve profitability. Manufacturing costs, which are measured in dollars per watt, fall when the same production line rolls out cells that could produce more electricity. More efficient cells produce more power, which helps to lower the cost of producing electricity and provides a quicker return on investments for homeowners or power plant developers. 

There is, however, a theoretical maximum efficiency for cells categorized by the makeup of their semiconductor compounds and some types of solar cells are closer to the ceiling than others. Which technologies can move smoothly toward those ceilings and which get hung up could become one of the big issues of the decade.

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