The Department of Energy (DOE) launched the Cadmium Telluride Accelerator Consortium, which it described as a $20 million initiative designed to make cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar cells less expensive, more efficient and develop new markets for solar cell products.
DOE said that CdTe solar cells were first developed in the United States and are the second-most common photovoltaic technology in the world after silicon. It said that without strengthened domestic manufacturing capacity, “the U.S. will continue to rely on clean energy imports, exposing the nation to supply chain vulnerabilities” while also “losing out on the enormous job opportunities” associated with the energy transition.
The consortium is expected to work on 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.
The three-year consortium is intended to:
- Support the planning and operations of a technology development consortium to enhance U.S. technology leadership and competitiveness in CdTe photovoltaics (PV)
- 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.
DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will administer the consortium, whose leaders 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 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 in July, is intended to 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.