Sun Power - the real power

SunPower, which makes solar cells and panels, says it has boosted the efficiency and size of its solar panels, yielding substantially more electricity than current panels.

The San Jose, Calif.-based company on Monday announced its second-generation, higher-power product at the Solar Power 2006 conference, and the panels are expected to be in mass production next year.

SunPower says it has managed to increase efficiency of the silicon cells from 20 percent to 22 percent. Further, the 5-foot by 3-and-a-half-foot panels will pack 96 individual cells within them, compared to the 72 contained in the company?s current product.

Overall, these changes result in a 43 percent increase in power, said Julie Blunden, vice president of external affairs at SunPower. Each panel can generate 315 watts of electricity and will have roughly the same cost per watt as the existing line, she said.

The theoretical limit of monocrystalline silicon cell efficiency is about 25 percent, Blunden said.

Other companies are developing solar photovoltaic manufacturing techniques around other materials, notably CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide).

But SunPower, which is owned by Cypress Semiconductor, intends to continue investing in higher solar efficiency and ways to lower the cost of installation, Blunden said.

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