At a time when solar PV records seem to be broken on a daily basis, the solar company Semprius, in which Siemens invested as a strategic partner in June 2011, has achieved a remarkable world record for photovoltaic module efficiency of 33.9 percent. This result was externally certified after measurement under standard test conditions at the Instituto de Energía Solar (IES) at the University of Madrid (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid).

Semprius, which is headquartered in Durham, North Carolina, develops high concentrating photovoltaic (HCPV) modules. It is the company’s latest prototypes that have achieved the milestone figure of 33.9 percent solar module efficiency. In a joint collaboration with the Spanish Institute of Concentration Photovoltaic Systems (ISFOC) and the University of Madrid, this testing was performed by the IES institute of the university.

Depending on the specific location and irradiation, the HCPV modules can deliver an energy output per square meter that is twice as great as common polycrystalline modules. Leading module manufacturers of conventional PV technologies achieve a maximum module efficiency of approximately 20 percent with monocrystalline PV modules and about 16 percent with polycrystalline technology.

In June 2011, Siemens acquired a 16-percent stake in Semprius to scale up the innovative HCPV technology to market maturity. The Semprius HCPV systems bundle the sunlight on the modules with the aid of integrated lenses on small photovoltaic cells. HCPV is said to be a prime alternative to conventional photovoltaics and especially suitable for sunbelt regions with high direct irradiation.

“Semprius as a leader in HCPV modules shows us that we have bet on the right technology,” said Martin Pfund, CEO of the Siemens Energy Photovoltaic business unit. “This breakthrough in module efficiency … has the potential to become a game changer for the solar markets in regions with high irradiation.”

While Semprius will further develop its modules, Siemens is focusing its research and development activities on optimising system components such as the trackers, field design and inverters. The first full test installation has been operational in Arizona since August 2010. Furthermore, Semprius completing the construction of a pilot plant in Henderson, North Carolina, to validate the technology for larger installations. Ramp up of the first pilot line production of HCPV modules there will begin during the second half of 2012.