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Supply Constraints Analysis

Some of the materials used in solar PV modules, such as tellurium and indium, are rare materials in limited supply. Solar PV technologies have grown rapidly in recent years, and today CdTe PV technology makes up 12-15% of the PV industry market. NREL's supply chain constraints analysis is focused on understanding whether rare material constraints could limit the scale of rare material-based PV technology deployment.

NREL's supply chain constraints analysis shows that:

  • Tellurium prices already contribute significantly to module cost and future price could be critical issue to the economic viability of this PV technology
  • Even with significant CdTe technology improvements to reduce Tellurium intensity (MT Te/GW), deployment of CdTe PV technology may be constrained by future tellurium supplies

Highlights of Recent Studies

Tellurium Supply Constraints Analysis

This study investigated the impacts of potential tellurium supply constraints on future CdTe PV module deployment and found that:

  • CdTe PV modules can remain cost competitive with future projections for crystalline silicon PV modules even with a 10X increase in Te prices IF technology and manufacturing improvement efficiency and thickness targets are realized
  • If copper mining is relied upon as the sole source of tellurium, CdTe PV technology may be constrained to around 10 GW of annual production by 2020 and 40-70 GW of annual CdTe production by 2030

Cost estimates were based on NREL's Manufacturing cost model—a financial simulation of typical CdTe module manufacturing process, including materials and equipment, operational costs, and cost of financing.

To find out more about this study, please download: On the Pathways for CdTe Module Manufacturers to Address Expected Increases in Tellurium Prices, Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells

For questions about this project, contact Michael Woodhouse via our Webmaster page.