Solar cells remain small players in an energy-guzzling world, in part because they don't convert light into electricity very well. Although photovoltaics made of advanced materials such as gallium arsenide can achieve nearly 30 percent efficiencies, the cost makes them suited only for use in space. The efficiencies of typical commercial cells have languished for years at about 15 to 16 percent. In the past couple of months, however, several firms have announced substantial gains that could make these cells more attractive.
Solar modules are often installed in limited spaces, such as rooftops. Eric Daniels, a vice president at photovoltaic manufacturer BP Solar, says that for this reason, many customers are willing to pay a premium for cells with a higher conversion efficiency. (Solar modules typically cost around $4 to $8 per watt.)
This article was originally published with the title Photovoltaic Finesse.