New Records In Cleantech Offer Hope For More Affordable Solar Power, LED Lights

Cleantech companies— especially in solar— love to talk about how they’re breaking records. They issue press releases left and right about the most efficient this, that and the other. Such claims fizzle if they haven’t been verified by a third-party lab. They can also feel like greenwash, or Cola War style brand standoffs.

Broken records we love to hear about, though, are like these from cleantech ventures Lighting Science Group and Flisom (in Switzerland). Here’s what they’ve done and why it matters…

1. One Million LED Bulbs Made In One Quarter

On May 31, Lighting Science Group — makers of light emitting diode (LED) bulbs that are Energy Star rated — reported that during the first quarter of 2011, they produced and sold 1 million bulbs. In 2010, Lighting Science produced and sold 1 million bulbs in the second half of the year, according to company statements.

Bulk production and sales increases like this suggest that LED lights, which are more energy-efficient and durable than flourescent and incandescent bulbs, are becoming mainstream and more affordable.

2. Flexible Solar Technology Reaches 18.7 Percent Efficiency

Flexible, thin-film solar cells can now deliver more electricity per square inch than ever before.

Scientists from EMPA, Switzerland’s Federal Laboratory for Materials Science and Innovation, along with a Swiss startup called Flisom broke the energy conversion efficiency record for flexible thin-film CIGS solar cells, last week. They hit 18.7 percent efficiency for their CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide) flexible solar cells.

A previous record of 15.7 percent was announced by MiaSole in December 2010 (as TechCrunch reported then).

The new record means that electricity generated by thin-film solar will become more affordable, hopefully alleviating reliance on petroleum and coal for power somewhat.

The improved efficiency also means that the flexible, lighter-weight solar panels could catch up to rigid, silicon solar panels in terms of performance which would allow more consumer choice and competition in solar.

Image: Records, under creative commons via Peter Organisciak