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Solar power company SolarCity is now manufacturing what it claims is the highest-efficiency rooftop solar panel on the market — and it plans to make record numbers of them as well.
The new panel has an efficiency rating of 22 percent, the company said, meaning 22 percent of the energy hitting the cell is converted to electricity (as opposed to bouncing off or producing waste heat). The company called it the "world’s most efficient rooftop solar panel."
It isn't a huge jump over the competition — panels from SunPower reach 21.5 percent — but SolarCity also described a new manufacturing process that reduces the cost significantly, bringing it down to about 50 cents per watt versus 55 or 60 cents in competing systems. Since panels generally have several thousand watts, such seemingly minor savings add up quickly. SolarCity CTO Peter Rive spoke in more detail about the panel and manufacturing process in an interview with Greentech Media.
They're still expensive, though, and in a separate blog post the company stressed the need for alternative pricing structures for solar power — community-owned installations, for instance, or leased systems that cost less than an ordinary electric bill.
The White House agrees: Last month the Obama administration introduced a new initiative to improve access to solar power across the country.