[41] At this time, the company projected average production line module efficiency for its CdTe PV to be 17% by 2017, but by 2016, they predicted a module efficiency closer to ~19.5%. qualifying purchases. Solar panels glimmering in the sun are an icon of all that is green. [52], Tellurium (Te) production and reserves estimates are subject to uncertainty and vary considerably. If you’re thinking of going with a CdTe panel, such as those available from First Solar, should you be concerned? A free ebook for homeowners to help you understand solar Although thin film photovoltaics do contain some heavy metals, including cadmium, numerous studies (e.g. [70] Promising future recycling methods include vulcanization-vacuum distillation and the Double Green Process. [51] This is climate-dependent. [56] In the last decade[when? Amorphous silicon cells, like c-Si cells, are made of non-toxic silicon but differ in the chemical form that the silicon takes. Instead, the PV market reached some 4 gigawatts in 2007 with crystalline silicon comprising almost 90% of sales. Vulcanization-vacuum distillation has been suggested as a possible recycling process to obtain Te and can recover Te with purities up to 99.92%. [citation needed] Including Antec, their total production represents less than 70 megawatts per year. Companies involved in CdTe solar panel production, a key thin-film panel technology. Only a small amount, estimated to be about 800 metric tons[53] per year, is available. Among them are the materials used in some solar panels, like cadmium, which is used in cadmium tellurium (CdTe)-based photovoltaics. CdTe solar cells are the second most common photovoltaic (PV) technology in the world marketplace after crystalline silicon, currently representing 5% of the world market. Often the substrate is flexible, which is why these cells are called thin-film. Solar Frontier, a Japanese company, is a current producer of CIGS solar cells. CdTe cells achieved above 15%[clarification needed] in 1992 by adding a buffer layer to the TCO/CdS/CdTe stack and then thinned the CdS to admit more light. [10][11] The usage of rare materials may also become a limiting factor to the industrial scalability of CdTe technology in the mid-term future. Normally silicon is recyclable, but to improve the solar cells’ electrical efficiency, metals such as cadmium and lead are added. Cadmium is a heavy metal that can make humans quite sick. 1. [62][63], By themselves, cadmium and tellurium are toxic and carcinogenic, but CdTe forms a crystalline lattice that is highly stable, and is several orders of magnitude less toxic than cadmium. [64] The glass plates surrounding CdTe material sandwiched between them (as in all commercial modules) seal during a fire and do not allow any cadmium release unless the glass is broken. This means that even if there were hazardous materials inside, a solar panel is built sturdy enough to hold up to the elements for more than two decades. While everyone looks to solar power as a form of clean energy, it does have some dirty secrets. [26] Golden Photon held the record for a short period for the best CdTe module measured at NREL at 7.7% using a spray deposition technique. Photovoltaic modules can last anywhere from 25 – 30 years. Cadmium is a major ingredient in one particular type of solar panel called cadmium telluride. (First Solar FAQ Document) First Solar Panel Quality Assurance Video YouTube: “First Solar Module Reliability” First Solar established the first global and comprehensive recycling program in the PV industry in 2005. With a share of 5.1% of worldwide PV production, CdTe technology accounted for more than half of the thin film market in 2013. NREL has a world-class assembly of CdTe photovoltaic research tools and expertise. [77], During a module’s lifespan, it will not release any particles or vapors if used as intended. [1] Cadmium telluride PV is the only thin film technology with lower costs than conventional solar cells made of crystalline silicon in multi-kilowatt systems.[1][2][3]. [59][60] Certain undersea ridges are rich in tellurium. Buying Solar For Your Home: The Complete Workers in processing facilities may be exposed to, and inhale, fine particles or fumes of Cd. However, cadmium telluride has toxicity concerns. In fact, it often costs companies more to recycle a solar panel than to produce a solar panel. ... First Solar has meanwhile been steadily reducing the amount of cadmium used in its solar cells. Do you have a battery-powered tool, like a drill or dustbuster? SENSE relies on mechanical, chemical and thermal treatments. 23 CdTe panel manufacturers are listed below. On a lifecycle basis, CdTe PV has the smallest carbon footprint, lowest water use and shortest energy payback time of any current photo voltaic technology. Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) is a commonly used material in thin film solar modules. Everything you need to know about flexible solar panels, Beginner’s guide: How to power an RV or boat with solar panels. Cadmium chloride is toxic, relatively expensive and highly soluble in water, posing a potential environmental threat during manufacture. According to USGS, global production in 2007 was 135 metric tons. [32], The major commercial success was by Solar Cells Incorporated (SCI). After trying amorphous silicon, he shifted to CdTe at the urging of Jim Nolan and founded Solar Cells Inc., which later became First Solar. Introduction. Most flexible and portable solar panels that you’ll find on the market are made of flexible c-Si cells, and not thin-film. Direct manufacturing cost for CdTe PV modules reached $0.57 per watt in 2013,[78] and capital cost per new watt of capacity is near $0.9 per watt (including land and buildings).[79]. CdTe thin-film solar cells can be manufactured quickly and inexpensively, providing a lower-cost alternative to conventional silicon-based technologies. Thin-film cells, in contrast, are made by depositing chemical layers on a substrate such as glass or plastic. This research may lead to cheaper and safer CdTe cells. These panels are made up of several thin layers: one main energy-producing layer made from the compound cadmium telluride, and surrounding layers for electricity conduction and collection. First Solar, a US-based manufacturer, makes attractive PV modules that can be used in home applications. Commercial product became available in 2002. An important step forward occurred when cells were scaled-up in size to make larger area products called modules. However, this technology suffers from low efficiencies and slow deposition rates (leading to high capital costs). CdTe’s relatively low temperature coefficient protects performance at higher temperatures. [71], Success of cadmium telluride PV has been due to the low cost achievable with the CdTe technology, made possible by combining adequate efficiency with lower module area costs. Matsushita started with screen printing but shifted in the 1990s to CSS. [39], In August 2014 First Solar announced a device with 21.1% conversion efficiency. A large growth in the CdTe PV sector has the potential to reduce global cadmium emissions by displacing coal and oil power generation. [citation needed], By 1981, Kodak used close-space sublimation (CSS) and made the first 10%[clarification needed] cells and first multi-cell devices (12 cells, 8% efficiency, 30 cm2). One of the product categories that you might expect to find widespread use of thin-film cells is for portable power charging devices, but even this is still dominated by c-Si. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. However, possible future recycling methods may decrease in cost through reduction of expensive and environmentally unfriendly processes. With proper lifecycle handling, there’s no reason that CdTe solar panels can’t be considered just as safe as these other common consumer products. [14] The same source estimated that about 3 gigawatts were installed in 2007. They wrote: If they were classified as “hazardous” according to Federal or State criteria, then special requirements for material handling, disposal, record keeping, and reporting would escalate the cost of decommissioning. c-Si cells are currently 95% of the market. [65][66] All other uses and exposures related to cadmium are minor and similar in kind and magnitude to exposures from other materials in the broader PV value chain, e.g., to toxic gases, lead solder, or solvents (most of which are not used in CdTe manufacturing).[67][68]. [34] In February 1999, McMaster sold the company to True North Partners, who named it First Solar. 1. The debate over the toxic potential of thin film solar panels based on cadmium compounds has been reignited. incentives. A backsheet is the last layer at the bottom of the c-Si solar PV panel and is typically made of a polymer or a combination of polymers such as polyvinyl fluoride (PVF) (Bradley, 2015). Its founder, Harold McMaster, envisioned low-cost thin films made on a large scale. [38] Today, First Solar manufactures over 3 gigawatts with an average module efficiency of 16.4% in 2016. BP Solar dropped CdTe in November 2002. To meet ambitious national and international emissions reduction targets like the Paris Agreement, low-carbon technologies are essential. SENSE (Sustainability EvaluatioN of Solar Energy systems) and RESOLVED (REcovery of SOLar Valuable materials, Enrichment, and Decontamination) are European funded procedures. [71], As of 2013 the recycling costs for CdTe modules are higher than the re-sale of recycled materials. Cadmium telluride is a direct band gap material with high absorption for the full spectrum. The latter is beginning to be produced in volumes of 1–30 megawatts per year due to very high small-area cell efficiencies approaching 20% in the laboratory. [72] The Double Green Process consists of almost entirely mechanical processes. Despite the small amounts of Cd that may leach out, CdTe modules have low overall leachability as the hazardous materials within them are encased within two layers of glass. 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