The Advantages of CadTel PV Technology

From its inception, thin film Cadmium Telluride (CadTel) photovoltaic (PV) technology demonstrated a number of qualities that led First Solar to select it over conventional technologies, like crystalline silicon (c-Si). Qualities that included lower cost, superior scalability, and a higher theoretical efficiency limit. Over time, and with more than $1.5 billion invested in research and development, First Solar has also been able to harness other advantages that are unique to the semiconductor.
Series 6 Panel

Energy Yield Advantages

  • Superior Warranted Annual Degradation Rate
    • Modules retain >89% of original performance after 30 years
  • Superior Temperature Coefficient & Spectral Response
    • Delivers up to 4% more annual energy in hot climates and up to an additional 4% more annual energy in high humidity conditions
  • Superior Shading Response
    • Less sensitive to power loss in shaded conditions
  • Immunity to Cell-Cracking, LID & LeTID
    • No power loss from cell-cracking and no power loss from LID or LeTID mechanisms that affect c-Si modules

Environmental Advantages

  • Upcycles mining waste tailings to create an inherently sustainable, high-efficiency photovoltaic semiconductor
  • Lowest Carbon & Water Footprint
    • 2.5x lower carbon footprint and 3x lower water footprint than c-Si panels on a lifecycle basis
  • Fastest Energy Payback Time
    • 2x faster than c-Si panels
  • Superior Recyclability
    • Global recycling services can recover >90% of materials for reuse

Social Advantages

  • Responsible Solar
    • With forced labor bans and mandatory human rights due diligence legislation on the rise, customers increasingly value First Solar’s comprehensive approach to responsible sourcing and supply chain due diligence.
    • CadTel enables First Solar’s fully vertically integrated, continuous manufacturing model, which produces modules under one roof and allows for industry-leading transparency and product traceability
    • First Solar is the first PV manufacturer to have its product included in the EPEAT global registry for sustainable electronics and represents the most eco-efficient PV solution available today

Strategic Advantages

  • Energy Security/Supply Chain Continuity
    • Reduced dependence on China’s crystalline silicon supply chains
  • Rapid Scaling
    • Vertically integrated manufacturing process enables the construction and operation of new factories in as little as 18 months, addressing the urgency of the climate crisis

Potential for the Future

Thin film CadTel technology has come a long way over the past two decades, but its full potential has not yet been realized. Research and product development teams at First Solar forecast a thin film CadTel entitlement of 25% cell efficiency by 2025 and pathways to 28% cell efficiency by 2030. 

Additionally, First Solar is a member of the Cadmium Telluride Accelerator Consortium (CTAC), administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and funded by the US Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office. CTAC is designed to support efforts to enhance US technology leadership and competitiveness in CadTel photovoltaics.

As the pace of innovation accelerates, new possibilities become ever more likely, including the development of CadTel bifacial modules and tandem products that incorporate the best aspects of both CadTel and c-Si semiconductor technologies. Thin film PV will be essential to future technology advances as the solar industry improves efficiency beyond the limits of single-junction devices. These exciting innovations will improve overall system performance and drive down the Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) on a global scale. 

First Solar is leading the way with the most proven thin film manufacturing process in the world.

First Solar – The Leader in Thin Film PV

Working in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), researchers from First Solar have steadily set and broken numerous world records for CadTel cell efficiency and made other significant performance improvements over the past two decades.  

In late 2020, First Solar’s thin film CadTel PV technology reached a milestone after 25 years of continuously monitored performance testing, becoming the longest-running research project at NREL’s Outdoor Test Facility (OTF) in Golden, Colorado. Out of all the photovoltaic technologies and manufacturers represented at the OTF, First Solar is the only one that is still in business today.

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