China’s Solar Power Maker Suntech will push cheaper solar panels with higher efficiency

Forbes – Suntech is selling the two new silicon solar panels in the North and Latin America first.

Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. is the world’s largest producer of solar panels, with 1,800MW of annual production capacity by the end of 2010. Overall, Suntech expects to have 2.4 gigawatts of total production capacity by the end of 2011.

The first panel, called HiPerforma, produces 245 watts of power, which is about 7-9 percent higher than the 225-watt to 230-watt panels that are more commonly found on the market, said Andrew Beebe, Suntech’s chief commercial officer. The Chinese manufacturer is marketing HiPerforma for all types of power generation projects, from rooftop systems for homes and businesses to utility-scale power plants.

* HiPerforma panel has an efficiency of up to 14.8 percent, which is more efficient that older multicrystalline solar panels by Suntech.

The Pluto technology makes it possible for HiPerforma to retain its efficiency during early or late in the day, or under cloudy conditions, so it can produce 2-5 percent more electricity. The ability to convert low and diffuse light into power is often touted by companies that use alternative materials to silicon for their solar cells.

Pluto is still a relatively new technology for Suntech, which wants to convert all of its production lines to use Pluto. The company produced 50 megawatts of Pluto cells in 2010 and expects to produce 200 megawatts in 2011, Suntech’s chief technology officer, Wenham said in March. But the annual production capacity for Pluto will hit 450 megawatts, Beebe said.

The second panel that Suntech is launching makes use of a new technology it calls SuperPoly for making silicon wafers. The company is one of several that are developing wafer production processes using a patent that expired three years ago.

Suntech’s new panel, a 290-watt product in its Vd Series, makes use of the portion of the wafers that has a mix of the two types of silicon crystals. The panel can achieve an efficiency of up to 14.9 percent, Beebe said. The size of the new panel is larger than HiPerforma because it contains more cells, so it’s being marketed to utility scale project developers.

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