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DOE launches Cadmium Telluride Accelerator Consortium; making CdTe solar cheaper and more efficient

The US Department of Energy (DOE) launched the Cadmium Telluride Accelerator Consortium (CTAC)—a $20-million initiative designed to make cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar cells less expensive, more efficient and develop new markets for solar cell products.

CdTe solar cells were first developed in the United States and are the second-most common photovoltaic technology in the world after silicon. The thin-film technology can be made more cheaply than silicon solar panels and has been shown to have a 22.1% efficiency in converting sunlight into electricity.

CdTe is one of the best performing and most reliable thin-film technologies in large-scale commercial production, according to the US DOE’s the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). However, without strengthened domestic manufacturing capacity, the US will continue to rely on clean energy imports, exposing the nation to supply chain vulnerabilities while simultaneously losing out on job opportunities.

The new Cadmium Telluride Accelerator Consortium will work on continued cost and efficiency improvements that will make CdTe cheaper and more efficient, and more competitive on the global market. More specifically, CTAC is designed to:

  • Enable cell efficiencies above 24% and module costs below $0.20/W by 2025

  • Enable cell efficiencies above 26% and module costs below $0.15/W by 2030

  • Maintain or increase domestic CdTe PV material and module production through 2030

To achieve these goals, the team has a broad research plan that includes CdTe doping strategies, characterizing and exploring new CdTe contacting materials, and work to enable a bifacial CdTe module that absorbs light from the front and back of the module.

NREL will administer the consortium, the leaders of which were chosen through a competitive solicitation NREL released last year. The consortium will be led by the University of Toledo, First Solar, Colorado State University, Toledo Solar Inc., and Sivananthan Laboratories, Inc.

NREL will serve as a resource, support, and technical analysis center as the consortium develops a technology roadmap, conducts research to meet targets set within the roadmap, and regularly assesses the domestic CdTe supply chain for challenges and opportunities. The consortium aims to expand domestic CdTe photovoltaic material and module production, support the domestic CdTe supply chain, and enhance U.S. competitiveness.

DOE’s continued investment in CdTe technology. DOE, through NREL and a longstanding partnership with First Solar, has been a leader in CdTe research. DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) supports innovative research focused on overcoming the current technological and commercial barriers for CdTe cells. SETO has awarded funding for research, development, and demonstration of methods to improve reliability and lower the cost of CdTe technology.

DOE’s Solar Photovoltaics Supply Chain Review Report identified CdTe as an opportunity for expanding domestic production of solar panels, up to the limit that CdTe material availability allows, with little risk of being overtaken by low-cost foreign competition.

The FY22 Solar Manufacturing Incubator funding opportunity, announced last month, will support projects that ready new technologies and manufacturing processes for commercialization and demonstrate solutions that can boost domestic manufacturing of thin-film photovoltaics made from CdTe.


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