First Solar has opened up its 100MW TetraSun facility in Malaysia to produce high-efficiency solar panels. According to Malaysia’s Daily Express, the 100MW line is up and running. It will produce 300W, n-type, 60-cell, monocrystalline modules based on TetraSun’s technology. First Solar acquired TetraSun in 2013. The cells will be made on 156mm diameter wafers.
First Solar will initially sell TetraSun modules to JX Nippon
TetraSun has developed a new surface passivation technology that uses 40 micron wide copper electrodes rather than screen-printed silver to dramatically increase conductivity and reduce material costs. It provides conversion efficiency of up to 21% without having to use more complex cell architectures. It marks First Solar’s entry into silicon-based panel manufacturing, amid growing concerns that its cadmium telluride (CdTe) modules were uncompetitive.
First Solar has previously stated that TetraSun’s modules will initially be sold largely in Japan, where the company has a distribution agreement with TetraSun’s former owner JX Nippon Oil & Energy. Over the past few years, analysts have argued that First Solar relied too heavily on utility-scale solar projects at the expense of rooftop and distributed-generation sector.
First Solar pushing further into the residential sector
However, the Tempe, Arizona-based company is shifting its focus to the residential market. TetraSun’s high-efficiency technology should help the company strengthen its position in the residential solar market. Last month, First Solar signed a deal with Colorado-based Clean Energy Collective to enter the community solar segment. Community solar schemes allow people to use solar energy even if their rooftops are not suitable for PV systems or they live in apartments.
Community solar projects are ground-mounted, relatively larger solar projects that allow customers to buy a small portion of the project and get the electricity they produce. First Solar argues that community solar projects are more cost-effective than rooftop solar arrays. First Solar has also been working to improve the efficiency of its CdTe modules. The company has developed CdTe modules that have a conversion efficiency of 20.4% in laboratory conditions.