First Solar achieved a record 17.3% solar efficiency, breaking the previous record held from 2001 at 16.7%. Beyond that, I wonder what took so long to break this record.
Now, it doen't meant that suddently, we are going go be see new solar panels taking converting 17.3% of sunlight into electricity. Actual panel effiency from First Solar stands at 13.4%. Which isn't bad but a long way from single cell conversions.
On top of that, real world efficiency is even lower. First Solar's average efficiency was around 12% in the first quarter of 2011. that is less than 70% of what they achieved in the lab.
However, the use of Cadmium telluride panels is cheaper than traditional silicon panels. Silicon-based panels have higher solar efficiency. And while we are on the subject, there is another competing thin-fime tech, called copper, indium, gallium selenide (CIGS) that could achieve comparable rates with cadmium-telluride panels and could be more profitable for developers.
Source: Green Tech (CNet)