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Elon Musk-backed SolarCity claims to have built industry's most efficient solar panel

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SolarCity — the leading installer of residential solar panels in the US — announced today in Times Square that the company has built the industry's most efficient solar panel, Reuters reports. The panel converts sunlight into electricity with a 22.04 percent efficiency, according to third-party testing from the Renewable Energy Test Center. That's slightly higher than the 21.5 percent efficiency boasted by rival SunPower's X-Series solar panels.

It's not the highest-level efficiency ever produced by a solar cell. The world record for the most efficient conversion of sunlight into energy is 44.7 percent. And companies like Boeing subsidiary Spectrolab make ultra-expensive panels for spacecraft with around 40 percent efficiency. SolarCity says the panels it produces are cheap and are the same size as traditional residential solar panels, but provide 30 to 40 percent more power, according to Mashable. Essentially, the company claims its panels provide the most efficiency for the lowest cost.

The panel converts sunlight into electricity with a 22.04 percent efficiency

SolarCity was co-founded by Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk and is currently run by his cousins Peter and Lyndon Rive. The primary aim of the company has been to provide solar installation technologies, but in June 2014, SolarCity announced plans to build a 1-gigawatt panel manufacturing facility in Buffalo, New York. Currently, the company is making its solar panels at a 100-megawatt pilot facility in Fremont, California until the Buffalo facility opens in 2017. When its complete, the company says the factory will produce up to 10,000 solar panels a day.

Lyndon Rive says that by making its own solar panels, the company will bring down system costs by 15 to 20 cents a watt. However, SolarCity won't make enough panels to meet the country's installation needs, with most of the panels the company installs coming from China.

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