DOE Introduces Solar Research Group to Focus on Cadmium Telluride Technology

The U.S. Department of Energy launched the Cadmium Tetride Accelerator Consortium. This $20 million initiative is designed to make CdTe (Cadmium Telluride) solar cells cheaper, more efficient, and open new markets for its products. CdTe photovoltaic cells are second in popularity to silicon after silicon.

The U.S. will continue relying on imports of clean energy. This will expose the nation to supply chain risks and also reduce the number of job opportunities that come 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 Tetride Accelerator Consortium will continue to improve cost and efficiency, making CdTe more affordable, more efficient, and more competitive in the global market. The team has a broad research plan. It includes CdTe doping strategies and characterizing and investigating new CdTe contacts materials. They also work to develop a bifacial CdTe modular that absorbs light from both its front and back. 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 headed by the University of Toledo and First Solar, Colorado State University. Toledo Solar Inc., 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 act as a technical analysis, resource, and support center for the consortium. It will also develop a technology roadmap, conduct research to meet the roadmap’s targets, and periodically assess the domestic CdTe Supply Chain for potential 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.”

Through NREL and a longstanding partnership, First Solar has been a leader for 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 funded research, development, demonstration of methods that improve reliability and lower the price 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.