• Solar panels in production delivering 22% efficiency
  • Company has no plans to sell panels to other developers

SolarCity Corp., the biggest U.S. rooftop solar-power supplier, is now manufacturing the most efficient photovoltaic panels.

The company is making panels with 22.04 percent efficiency at its pilot plant in Fremont, California, Chief Executive Officer Lyndon Rive said in an interview, citing independent measurements by the Renewable Energy Test Center.

The 100-megawatt factory will reach full production in December or January and the company’s 1,000-megawatt plant in Buffalo, New York, will begin production in the first quarter of 2017. Rive expects initial production costs, including overhead, of about 55 cents per watt.

“It’s the best rooftop module in the world and it’s made in the U.S.,” Rive said. The current efficiency rating is just the start, he said. “We’ve got a lot of improvements under way.”

SolarCity has no plans to sell the panels to developers. Instead, the company will use them in rooftop systems that it leases to homeowners or builds for utilities under long-term contracts. The company expanded into manufacturing with its acquisition last year of Silevo Inc.

SunPower Corp., a competing manufacturer with factories in Malaysia and the Philippines, has been producing the world’s most efficient modules for years and its products currently convert 21.5 percent of the energy in sunlight into electricity, said Ingrid Ekstrom, a spokeswoman for the San Jose, California-based company.

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