Typical solar panels coming off its factory floor are 13 percent efficient—lower than for silicon solar panels, but higher than panels made by one of its most direct competitors, First Solar, which makes thin-film solar panels from cadmium and tellurium. First Solar’s panels are typically about 12.4 percent efficient. That company says it will soon increase panel efficiency to 14 percent, making it competitive with many silicon solar panels.
Erten Eser, a scientist at the Institute for Energy Conversion at the University of Delaware, says the key to the company’s success is its stable funding. Decades-long development for solar panels is typical—it took that long to reach large-scale production of silicon panels and First Solar’s thin-film panels, the two technologies that account for almost all solar-panel production in the world.
Like First Solar, Solar Frontier hasn’t had to worry about having its funding cut off. “Solar Frontier never had problems with money. They never had to answer to any venture capitalists,” Eser says. “At the end of the day, of course, they’re going to be successful when they have time and money working on their side.”