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Solar Efficiency levels still fail to impress Investors in H1’16

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Solar Technology is improving

The solar technology has been improving with each passing year. Not only has there been an improvement in efficiency levels, but the costs are also coming down. Large solar companies have been successful in considerably reducing their production cost per watt. Economies to scale and grid parity have started to be achieved in many places around the globe. The storage cost are also expected to go down in the coming years, making rooftop solar more affordable in different countries.

For any niche technology to make a mark it is necessary to continuously evolve both in terms of performance or efficiency and costs. Solar energy has become very popular amongst the masses, majorly owing to its green credentials but also due to the fact that it is becoming more affordable annually. The solar companies have been adamant to deliver more and more on the technology and efficiency front. In this post, I am going to list out the various technological breakthroughs and accolades achieved by some of the major solar players in USA and China.

Also read about the list of popular Japanese Solar Companies.

Note the Japanese have always been known for their premium product line and technological edge, but have failed considerably to make a mark in the outside world. The Japanese thin film solar leader Solar Frontier recently reached a record efficiency level of 22.3% for its CIGS cells and has an ambitious target to reach 30% efficiency levels, giving close competition to the world thin film leader First Solar.

solar farm

H1’16 Solar Companies’ Panel Efficiency Breakthroughs

Some of the solar companies to achieve technological advantage worth mentioning are:

i) Trina Solar (NYSE: TSL) announced average efficiency of 21.1% for its industrially-produced P-type monocrystalline cells very recently in July this year. The company claimed that modules using these cells reached an output power of 300W.

Dr. Zhiqiang Feng, Vice-President of Trina Solar and Director of the State Key Laboratory of PV Science and Technology, added, “Our goal has always been to focus on technological innovation and to transfer our best laboratory technology to commercial production as we look to develop highly efficient solar products to further reduce the Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE). These efforts should help bolster the widespread adoption of solar energy on a global scale as well as enable the earlier arrival of grid parity.”

Trina Solar

ii) SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR) the leading solar company to achieve record efficiency levels yet again announced achieving new 24.1% solar panel efficiency record in June this year. The company’s X-Series solar modules produces 70% more energy in the same space over the first 25 years. SunPower had earlier announced reaching 22.8% level for its panels in February this year. SunPower’s Cradle to Cradle Certified Silver solar panels were also named the 2016 Environmental Leader Product of the Year.

“SunPower’s X-Series panel was tested by our lab under standard test or reporting conditions,” said NREL scientist Keith Emery, manager of the PV cell and module performance laboratory. “The module measured 11310.1 cm2 (aperture area) and had a power of 272.5 Watts. We recorded 24.1 percent efficiency, which is a new record for silicon module efficiency.”


iii) Jinko Solar (NYSE: JKS) also announced in May to become the first Chinese manufacturer receiving Qualification Plus (“Q+”) certification for its modules from TUV Rheinland. This certification can become mandatory for entering the renewable energy market in California in the future.

“Q+ certification’s stringent testing criteria represent the industry’s latest standards. I’m very pleased that JinkoSolar is the first Chinese PV manufacturer to get this certification,” commented Mr. Kangping Chen, Chief Executive Officer of JinkoSolar. “We have always focused on providing our clients with the highest quality and reliable products that can guarantee a return on their investment.”

Jinko Solar

iv) JA Solar (NASDAQ: JASO) announced in February this year, being the first to guarantee capability of double 85 anti-PID for all of its PV modules. JASO’s modules passed a 96-hour potential induced degradation (“PID”) resistance test, under 85-degrees Celsius and 85% relative humidity at -1,000V of system voltage.

Dr. Wei Shan, Chief Technology Officer of JA Solar said “To be able to pass ‘double 85′ anti-PID certifications for all our PV modules in mass production is a tremendous achievement in terms of JA Solar’s ability to produce high-performance and highly reliable PV modules to meet the ever-growing demands for better solar products from our customers and project partners.”

JA Solar

v) During the same time this year, First Solar (NASDAQ: FSLR) also achieved 22.1% efficiency for its cadmium-telluride cells. It is commendable to note that First Solar was able to upgrade these levels for the ninth time consecutively, since 2011.

“The accomplishment validates our continued confidence in CdTe as a superior PV material that combines cost effectiveness, reliability and high performance. In recent years and based on our research cell progress, we’ve improved the efficiency and energy density of our mass produced commercial PV modules at a rate at least three times faster than our multi-crystalline Si competitors. We fully expect to further separate ourselves from the pack in coming years” – said Raffi Garabedian, First Solar’s Chief Technology Officer.

First Solar


Through all these achievements, these companies surely leave a mark on the readers’ mind. However it is sad to see that these companies have still failed to impress investors, despite all this recognition. These solar stocks’ YTD performance was not very good as can be seen from the graph below.

H2'16 YTD performance

YTD Performance of the above mentioned stocks

Source: Google Finance

The solar technology is gradually maturing and becoming more promising. The investors need to keep this important point into consideration, while making a decision.



Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to

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