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When it comes to thin film photovoltaic (PV) technologies, cadmium telluride (CdTe) leads the way in the highly competitive and fast-changing global market. High light-absorption rates, coupled with relatively low manufacturing and installation costs, have helped make CdTe one of the most common PV technologies in the world, second only to crystalline silicon.
Even with this success, the Department of Energy (DOE) sees further opportunities to enhance U.S. competitiveness in CdTe technology. As global demand for solar cells grows rapidly, CdTe solar cells could offer a lower-cost, easier-to-scale alternative to conventional silicon-based technologies. If CdTe research could unlock higher cell efficiencies and even lower module manufacturing costs, the United States could capture a larger portion of the global solar market.
To help achieve these goals, DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office announced $20 million for the CdTe PV Accelerator Consortium Solicitation, which was released in June 2021. The solicitation seeks to formalize the leadership of a consortium—consisting of leading companies and research institutes—that will identify the technology development priorities to impact the entire domestic CdTe supply chain.
“The combined expertise of U.S. companies, universities, and national labs can accelerate cadmium telluride’s continued progress in increasing efficiency and energy yield while maintaining competitive production costs and service lifetimes,” said Becca Jones-Albertus, Solar Energy Technologies Office director.
Once selected, the consortium is expected to develop a technology roadmap, conduct research projects to meet targets in that roadmap, and assess the domestic CdTe supply chain, enabling the long-term competitiveness of CdTe PV in the United States.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is partnering with DOE and serving as the solicitation administrator. After the new consortium is formed, NREL will serve as a resource and support network, providing technical analysis to help the consortium meet its targets.
“NREL has a range of tools and capabilities available for research and development in CdTe materials and devices,” said Lorelle Mansfield, an NREL scientist and NREL lead for the CdTe PV Accelerator Consortium Solicitation. “Bringing together the expertise of academia, industry, and national labs will help take CdTe to the next level.”