Solar Isn’t A Commodity: The Advantages Of First Solar’s CdTe Technology Explained | Seeking Alpha

Many argue that the solar modules are a commodity, where producers can essentially only compete on price. This is brutally true for solar manufacturers within the same technology, such as crystalline silicon (c-Si), as there is little notable opportunity for differentiation outside of module efficiency improvements.

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First Solar – Growing Confidence In CdTe Technology | Seeking Alpha

First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) has experienced an enormous amount of success on the CdTe (cadmium telluride) front over the past few years. In fact, the company is now so confident in its CdTe thin-film technology that it is abandoning its $100 million high-efficiency silicon TetraSun line.

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CTF Solar to supply equipment for CTIEC’S first CdTe module factory | pv magazine

The two parties signed equipment procurement contracts for the 100 MW factory, which will produce cadmium telluride thin-film modules, during the SNEC tradeshow that is currently taking place in Shanghai.Read more

First Solar Hits Record 22.1% Conversion Efficiency for CdTe Solar Cell | gtm:

Once again, the company crushes the previous CdTe cell efficiency record.Read more

CTF Solar is the newest member to join PVthin

September is certainly a month full of events and exciting developments and we are delighted to top it off with more great news!

We are happy to announce that CTF Solar is the latest member to join PVthin – The International Thin-Film Industry Association.

 

About CTF Solar:

CTF Solar GmbH is a global PV player with Chinese ownership and German management. With a proud of history CTF Solar delivers CdTe thin-film solar module factories around the globe. From the factory’s layout and the selection of the equipment from leading European and Chinese manufacturers, to the precision design and integration of all components and processes – CTF Solar delivers high quality and the most advanced technology, putting the results of its extensive research and development work into effective practice. CTF Solar’s solutions used in combination with the support it provides concerning materials sourcing enables its customers to achieve the lowest possible module production cost thus contributing to the production of highly competitive PV modules.

Andreas Wade, PVthin President commented: “I am extremely pleased to welcome CTF Solar as member of PVthin. We are passing through a very important period for renewables and thin-film in particular, as the EU is preparing to become climate neutral by 2050, therefore it is essential to have a strong voice behind photovoltaics and thin-film.”

Stay tuned for more news about our expanding membership!

PVthin Materials

CdTe – Cadmium Telluride​

CdTe PV combines the performance advantages of thin-film technologies with affordable high-volume manufacturing, making it ideal for commercial rooftop and utility-scale ground-mount applications. In addition to their performance advantage in hotter climates, CdTe PV modules are less sensitive to reductions in wavelengths caused by humidity which results in a global energy density advantage over crystalline silicon PV. Utility-scale CdTe PV applications have played a pivotal role in driving down the cost of solar electricity and transforming PV into a mainstream energy source. According to Lazard’s latest unsubsidised levelised cost of energy comparison, utility-scale thin-film PV electricity is less expensive than new conventional generation technologies in the U.S. Southwest. Utility-Scale thin-film PV applications enable solar to be truly affordable and accessible to all.

First Solar: Utility-scale PV application
Calyxo CdTe Rooftop example
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CIGS – Copper Indium Gallium Selenide

CIGS PV modules are well suited to vertical installation in building-integrated PV (BIPV) applications due to their high efficiency, physical flexibility, aesthetics, and lightweight and superior performance in diffuse light conditions. BIPV solutions help protect building facades from weathering while generating clean electricity. Like CdTe, CIGS modules have a low temperature coefficient which results in a superior energy yield at higher module temperatures. With buildings being one of the biggest consumers of energy worldwide, CIGS modules provide an innovative solution for net-zero buildings by replacing conventional building materials with solar PV.

Manz: Building-Integrated CIGS PV Application
Manz AG Building Integrated PV CIGS Technology example
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Perovskite & Tandem PV

Perovskite based solar cell materials are extremely effective absorbers over a broad part of the solar spectrum and can be used for high efficiency solar cells. Coupled with their low fabrication cost, this allows for a low-cost and attractive PV option. Additionally, perovskite solar cells can be built on top of traditional solar cells in a tandem configuration to increase the power output of PV modules beyond anything achievable today.

Smart furniture
Commercial sized perovskite silicon solar cell
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What is thin-film PV?

Overview

A thin-film solar cell is a solar cell that is made by depositing one or more ultra-thin layers (much thinner than a human hair), or thin-film of photovoltaic material on a substrate, such as glass, plastic or metal. Thin-film PV was born out of the energy crisis of the 1970s. Determined to reduce the world’s reliance on fossil fuels, glass pioneers Harold McMaster and Norman Nitschke began exploring ways to commercialise and scale solar energy while also finding a new outlet for the glass industry. McMaster understood that scaling PV production was imperative to driving down the cost of solar electricity and meeting growing energy demands.

Harold McMaster was convinced that PV cells could be created by coating large glass substrates with a layer of conductive metal, similar to the way tinted glass is manufactured. He envisioned integrating the panel-coating process into “float lines” in the glass industry so that every glass plant could turn out windows one day and produce solar panels the next. The successful development of the Vapor Transport Deposition process led to the large-scale production of thin-film PV modules which could be manufactured nearly 600 times faster than conventional crystalline silicon modules.

Unlike the crystalline silicon PV batch process, thin-film PV modules are manufactured in a single continuous process by depositing semiconductor material on inexpensive substrates such as glass or plastic. A sheet of glass can be transformed into a finished PV module in less than 3.5 hours compared to crystalline silicon wafers, which can take up to three days.  By using compound semiconductors , such as gallium arsenide (GaAs), cadmium telluride (CdTe), copper indium disulphide (CIS) and copper indium gallium di-selenide (CIGS), as well as solution based metal-organic semiconductors, such as methyl-ammonium-lead-iodide (MAPI) – better known as Perovskite – , thin-film modules absorb light up to 100 times more effectively than conventional  materials such as silicon.

According to a recent IEA report (February 2020), renewables, including solar, wind, hydro, biofuels and others, play a leading role in the energy transition and their power capacity is expected to expand by 50% between 2019 and 2024. In particular, the report highlights that solar PV will play a central role, as it alone accounts for almost 60% of the expected growth.

The chart below shows different PV technologies and their range of applications.

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About-us-members-5N Plus

Description

5N Plus is a Canadian producer of high-purity metals and compounds for electronics including thin film PV applications. The company is a leading supplier of cadmium telluride (CdTe) as well as gallium, indium, selenium and related compounds which are critical components of thin film PV technologies. 5N Plus also offers recycling services for the recovery of various metals from industrial by-products and concentrates for sustainable use in CdTe and CIGS PV modules.

@ 5N Plus

Company History

5N Plus derives its name from the purity of its products which are more than 99.999 % pure (5 nines or 5N+). 5N Plus was founded in Montréal, Canada in 2000 by former-ANRAD Corporation (formerly Noranda Advanced Materials) employees led by Jacques L’Écuyer who decided to start their own company through a management buy-out of certain assets. In 2007, 5N Plus began constructing a manufacturing facility in Eisenhüttenstadt, Germany, ideally suited for the production and recycling of products for the solar industry. Today, 5N Plus is a leading producer of specialty metal and chemical products for the thin film PV industry. The company employs nearly 700 people worldwide and operates manufacturing facilities and sales offices across Europe, the Americas and Asia.

About-Us-Members-Von Ardenne

Description

VON ARDENNE is an industry-leading coating equipment manufacturer based in Dresden, Germany. The company supplies highly productive inline coaters in all customary sizes for TCO layers, backside contacts and semiconductor layers based on CIS or CdTe. VON ARDENNE’s high-speed coating and deposition equipment has played a crucial role in enabling the thin-film PV industry to grow rapidly.  VON ARDENNE’s magnetron sputtering technology enables the even and precise deposition of semiconductor materials onto sheets of glass or other large-area substrates and ensures both a high manufacturing throughput at optimised costs and consistently high quality.

VONARDENNE Salesdepartment Zeppelinstrasse
© VON ARDENNE Corporate Archive
VONARDENNE PIAnova Glass Coating System
© VON ARDENNE Corporate Archive
Vapor deposition
Von Ardenne’s magnetron sputtering technology “sputters” the coating material (known as the target) by bombarding it with positive gas ions in a medium vacuum. The coating material particles evenly condense onto the substrate as a continuous thin film.

Company History

VON ARDENNE GmbH was founded in 1991 as a spin-off company of the former Dresden-based Manfred von Ardenne Research Institute. Manfred von Ardenne was a German physicist who developed the world’s first fully electronic television in 1930. Since its inception, von Ardenne’s Research Institute focused on practical research and development projects that could make the biggest economic impact and be directly applied to the production line. VON ARDENNE GmbH carried the institute’s technological principles to the manufacturing line where it develops and manufactures industrial equipment for vacuum coatings on substrates such as glass, wafers, metal strip and polymer films. Today, VON ARDENNE is the leading provider of glass coating systems and equipment for thin-film PV, with more than 650 employees worldwide.