The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has launched the Cadmium Telluride Accelerator Consortium, a $20 million initiative designed to make cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar cells less expensive and more efficient, and to 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.
Without strengthened domestic manufacturing capacity, the U.S. will continue to rely on clean energy imports, exposing the nation to supply chain vulnerabilities while simultaneously losing out on the enormous job opportunities associated with the energy transition. The Consortium’s efforts to spur technological advancements will increase America’s competitiveness, bolster domestic innovation, and support clean electricity deployment supporting President Biden’s goal of achieving a net-zero economy by 2050.
“As solar continues its reign as one of the cheapest forms of energy powering our homes and businesses, we are committed to a solar future that is built by American workers,” states U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “DOE is proud to partner with leading solar researchers and companies to chart the future of CdTe technology, which presents an immense opportunity for domestic manufacturers to help ensure our nation’s security while providing family-sustaining jobs.”
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. 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. 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.
“To move America forward, we need an all-of-the-above strategy that propels our energy independence, lowers costs and creates good-paying jobs. Northern Ohio has already revolutionized the field of solar technology,” comments U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-09). “Now, through this remarkable partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy, the University of Toledo and First Solar, our region will become a hub of next-generation energy innovation that is built right here at home by Ohio’s workers.”
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.
“Our world requires scientific innovation to address the inefficient ways we find, produce and consume energy,” says University of Toledo President Dr. Gregory Postel. “The University of Toledo is proud to help power the future by leading this consortium that leverages our expertise in solar energy research and commercialization and strengthens our partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy and other leaders in this important and growing field.”
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 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.