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Cadmium-telluride (CdTe) PV manufacturer First Solar Inc. has announced several new milestones. The company has set a new world record for CdTe PV module conversion efficiency, achieving 16.1% total area module efficiency in tests confirmed by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Separately, First Solar also set a record for CdTe open circuit voltage (VOC), a critical parameter for PV performance, reaching 903.2 millivolts in NREL-certified testing. This new record marks the first substantial increase in CdTe VOC in over a decade of international research and development, First Solar says.

The company has also launched a new evolution of its Series 3 thin-film PV module platform, the Series 3 Black, which incorporates the latest advances in conversion efficiency, as well as additional features to enhance its performance in utility-scale power plants.

The all-black module's change in appearance results from the use of an advanced, all-black edge seal technology combined with a new encapsulation material that further enhances its field durability and demonstrates improvements in accelerated life testing results, according to First Solar.

Given these developments, First Solar has also accelerated its module conversion efficiency road map, raising its lead production line module efficiency target for 2015 from 15% to 16.2%, and targets for lead production line module efficiency of 16.2% to 16.9% in 2016 and 16.4% to 17.1% in 2017.

Finally, First Solar plans to acquire TetraSun, a solar photovoltaic technology startup that has developed a cell architecture capable of conversion efficiencies exceeding 21% with commercial-scale manufacturing costs comparable to conventional multicrystalline silicon solar cells.

The company has signed a definitive agreement to acquire TetraSun from JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp. and other investors, including TetraSun management. Terms of the transaction, which is expected to close in the second quarter, were not disclosed. First Solar and JX Nippon Oil & Energy also have entered into discussions on an agreement to distribute the technology in Japan.

"This breakthrough technology will unlock the half of the PV market which favors high-efficiency solutions, which has been unserved by First Solar to date," notes Jim Hughes, CEO of First Solar.

Following First Solar's series of announcements, the company's stock price surged approximately 45%. Analysis from Jefferies & Co. described First Solar stock as "the best house in a bad neighborhood," citing continuing financial questions and worries about the broader solar market.




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