Horizons- August 2013

Posted on September 21, 2013 by

Solar CellMarket watch – Evolution of solar technology

Modern silicon based solar photovoltaic technology has come a long way since the invention of silicon solar cells in the early 1950s. Back then, solar cells were hand-made and cost about $1,000 per watt while achieving only about 4% cell efficiency. Current crystalline silicon technology costs less than $1.50 per watt for modules and boasts more than 20% module efficiency. Other components of solar power plant too have seen similar trends in development.


Solar cells are the most important component of a solar PV power plant. They are the basic building blocks of solar modules which constitute more than half the cost and occupy more than 95% area of solar power plants. Solar cells have evolved continuously since their invention.

First Generation solar cells

The first solar cell was developed in the 1950s. These cells comprise of monosilicon or polysilicon crystals. Efficiency of these cells has increased from 4% in 1950s to 15%-20% in 2013. These cells are the most common cells used today and about 90% of the cells produced in world fall in this category. Large scale power plants of capacity more than 200 MW have been commissioned. Cells using mono-silicon are expensive but more efficient.

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Image credit: University of Salford