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Supply Constraints Analysis

NREL's supply constraints analysis—part of our broader effort supporting manufacturing analysis—focuses on understanding whether rare material constraints could limit the scale of rare material-based photovoltaic PV technology deployment.

NREL's supply chain constraints analysis shows that:

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

Highlights of Our Work: Tellurium Supply Constraints Analysis

In a study published in Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells, NREL investigated the impacts of potential Te supply constraints on future CdTe PV module deployment and found that:

  • CdTe PV modules can remain cost competitive with future projections for c-Si PV modules—even with a 10-times 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 Te, 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 processes including materials and equipment, operational costs, and cost of financing.

For questions about this project, contact energy.analysis@nrel.gov.