4 August 2022
US DOE launches $20m NREL-administered Cadmium Telluride Accelerator Consortium
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced the launch of the Cadmium Telluride Accelerator Consortium — a $20m initiative designed to make cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar cells less expensive, more efficient and develop new markets for solar cell products.
CdTe solar cells were first developed in the USA and are the second most common photovoltaic technology in the world after silicon. Without strengthened domestic manufacturing capacity, the USA will continue to rely on clean energy imports, exposing it to supply chain vulnerabilities while simultaneously losing out on the job opportunities associated with the energy transition, it is reckoned. The consortium’s efforts to spur technological advancements aims to increase the USA’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,” says US 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,” she says.
“To move America forward, we need an all-of-the-above strategy that propels our energy independence, lowers costs, and creates good-paying jobs,” says Marcy Kaptur, US Representative for Ohio’s 9th congressional district. “Northern Ohio has already revolutionized the field of solar technology. Now, through this remarkable partnership between the US Department of Energy, the University of Toledo, and First Solar [whose US manufacturing plant is in Perrysburg, OH] – our region will become a hub of next-generation energy innovation that is built right here at home by Ohio’s workers,” she adds.
The new Cadmium Telluride Accelerator Consortium will work on continued cost and efficiency improvements that aim to 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 that 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 US competitiveness.
DOE’s continued investment in CdTe technology
Through NREL and a long-standing partnership with First Solar, DOE has been a leader in CdTe research. DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) supports 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, announced in July, 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.