Sharp Corporation just announced a confirmed conversion rate of 35.8% for solar rays into electricity for their compound solar cell. Unlike silicon based PV, compound solar cells use photo-absorption layers made from compounds such as gallium and indium. No word was given in the release regarding the price or date to obtain the higher efficiency cells.
The solar industry has several competing technologies that produce electricity- however these technologies seem to fall into two categories. There are producers who can produce a high percentage of their solar rays into electricity (concentrated, compound) and there are those who can produce a PV cell at a low cost (thin film.) Thin film cells can have conversion rates of approximately 10-15% but can cost less than half of competing technologies. Currently there is an inverse relationship between cost to manufacture and ability to convert electricity, both issues of course affecting the economics of solar significantly.