Department of Energy launches $20 million initiative to boost CdTe solar cell development

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The U.S. Department of Energy is keeping the focus on thin-film cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar cells and modules with the launch of the Cadmium Telluride Accelerator Consortium—a $20 million initiative designed to make cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar cells less expensive, more efficient and develop new markets for solar cell products.

The DOE sees the need to strengthen domestic solar manufacturing, and investing more in CdTe R&D is a convenient place to start. CdTe solar cells were first developed in the United States, and we are still the main producer, with Ohio-based First Solar leading the way (but watch out for nearby Toledo Solar). Building out domestic supply chain for silicon-based PV production is also hugely necessary but will need a much bigger, long-term commitment (something QCells has laid out a road map for though).

“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,” said 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,” said U.S. Representative 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.”

“Our world requires scientific innovation to address the inefficient ways we find, produce and consume energy,” said 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.”

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.

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