For years, SolarCity investors were concerned how the company would perform after the federal tax credit expires. The San Mateo-based residential solar installer has now developed the “world’s most efficient” solar panel that would help it keep solar cost competitive even after the tax credit expires next year. SolarCity said in a blog post that its new panel could generate 30% to 40% more power per square foot area, while costing less than other PV modules in the market.
SolarCity’s new panel boasts of 22% efficiency
SolarCity chairman Elon Musk said the new panel had an efficiency of 22%. Most commercially available solar modules have efficiencies between 15% and 20%. SolarCity says its new panel will not only be used for schools, homes and businesses, but also in large-scale projects such as utilities. High-efficiency at a lower cost could prove to be a game-changer for the residential solar installer.
The company said it would start producing the new modules at its 100MW pilot facility later this month. Once its Buffalo facility reaches its peak capacity, production will be moved to the Buffalo plant. SolarCity aims to produce 9,000 to 10,000 panels per day. The new module is well-suited to work in high-temperature, allowing it to produce more power on an annual basis.
SolarCity laser-focused on cost-reduction
The solar power industry has grown rapidly in recent years as solar modules became more efficient while costs continued to decline. SolarCity is the largest residential solar installer in the United States with about 33% market share. The company has launched a new program to attract small businesses as they would have to pay less for solar power than they pay for utility power.
SolarCity’s new module is a hybrid between a silicon model and a crystalline panel. SolarCity CTO Peter Rive said the company had been laser-focused on cost-reduction and the new panel would dramatically change the cost structure. However, noted investor James Chanos, who has a short position on SolarCity, argues that Chinese companies will soon start producing even cheaper panels, eroding SolarCity’s advantage.