New solar consortium says it will push CdTe thin-film efficiency to 30%

Various university, research and commercial solar companies involved with cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film solar panel manufacturing have formed the U.S. Manufacturing of Advanced Cadmium Telluride (US-MAC) photovoltaics consortium.

Led by the Wright Center for Photovoltaics at The University of Toledo, Colorado State University (CSU) and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the group will advance foundational science and engineering, stimulate innovation and capitalize on shared resources and expertise. It aims to support increased CdTe solar production volume, optimize performance, and to diversify, integrate and support the success of domestic firms.

CdTe solar modules currently meet approximately 40% of the domestic utility-scale PV market demand — all coming from First Solar, the world’s largest CdTe solar panel manufacturer, with its home factory just outside Toledo, Ohio.

“While already enjoying great success in the marketplace, recent scientific developments make it clear that CdTe PV has significantly more potential for dramatically higher module efficiency, lower cost, increased lifetime energy, and more rapid production. This is all achievable with the concerted cooperation and investment that will be pursued by US-MAC,” said NREL Laboratory Director Martin Keller.

CdTe solar modules already exhibit a 19% commercial module efficiency. US-MAC will push the efficiency closer to the maximum theoretical efficiency of approximately 30%, develop advanced tandem and bifacial concepts for even higher performance, and extend the already excellent lifetime. CdTe annual production can be increased at least by a factor of 10 through focused and coordinated research and development.

US-MAC currently consists of an executive board that includes CSU, NREL and the University of Toledo, and has 10 industry members that comprise its industrial advisory board: 5N Plus, Consolidated Research Systems, Direct Solar, First Solar, Lucintech, Nious Technologies, Pilkington North America, Sivananthan Laboratories, Toledo Solar, and Uriel Solar Energy.

“The membership believes that CdTe is only at the beginning of its technology maturation curve, with much work still to do,” said Dr. Michael Heben, director of the Wright Center for Photovoltaics at UToledo, professor of physics and McMaster endowed chair. “The Secretary of Energy’s recent announcement of a new CdTe Accelerator Program reinforces this belief.”

Efforts to establish US-MAC began more than a year ago and a Memorandum of Understanding was fully executed on March 11, 2021. First Solar was selected by the industrial advisory board to be its representative to the executive board for a first three-year term. The executive board will work with the industrial advisory board and other key points of contact in other organizations to advance the goals of US-MAC.

The organizers and members of US-MAC intend for the consortium to be inclusive as it pursues the mission to strengthen American leadership in manufacturing of CdTe PV. Discussions are underway with Arizona State University, the University of Delaware and the University of Utah, as well as with other companies, to join an expanding US-MAC network.

News item from US-MAC