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Ascent Solar, based in Denver, Colorado, in the U.S., has been improving the electrical conversion output of its solar energy modules.

Flexible and affordable

Ascent Solar is developing the thin-film photovoltaic modules that can be more flexible and affordable than most traditional solar panels. Hydro began investing in the company in 2007, and now holds a 35 percent stake.

Ascent Solar modules can be directly integrated into standard building materials, including Hydro Building Systems’ aluminium facades.

The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently verified that the modules measured as high as 9.64 percent in conversion efficiency. The tested modules were produced from the company's 1.5MW pilot production line in Denver.

'Tremendous breakthrough'

"We have been working to achieve these efficiencies during our internal optimization process, and we view this achievement as a tremendous breakthrough. The test modules measure six inches wide by one foot long and serve as our building block for portable power and building integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) products," said Dr. Prem Nath, senior vice president of manufacturing for Ascent Solar.

"Our goal continues to be the commercialization of flexible thin-film CIGS (copper, indium, gallium, selenide) modules using a plastic substrate, which we hope will uniquely position Ascent Solar to provide light-weight, flexible photovoltaic material at low cost."

Lawrence Kazmerksi, executive director at NREL, said, "This is significant. Many doubted that a thin-film CIGS solar cell-on-plastic technology could be possible. Ascent Solar not only achieved this, but they now have confirmed efficiencies at NREL on fully integrated, monolithic prototype modules near 10 percent. This appears to be a substantial leap toward realizing high-performance, inexpensive thin-film solar photovoltaics."