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Cadmium telluride cells

The market share of cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar modules has grown rapidly during the last five years: from 1% in 2004 to 9% in 2009. First Solar dominates the market segment while other manufacturers such as Antec, Calyxo, Prime Solar and Abound currently only have small production outputs. CdTe modules are mainly used in large-scale, ground-mounted solar power systems and achieve efficiencies between 8 and 11%.

A distinguishing feature of CdTe technology is the simple and cost-effective production process, whereby manufacturing costs less than EUR 1/Wp are possible. When there are favourable solar radiation conditions, such as occur in southern Europe, this enables electricity to be generated at a cost comparable to fossil fuels.

With CdTe solar modules, the photovoltaically active layer is laminated between two glass panels. In such structures, no cadmium or tellurium is released that exceeds statutory limit values. Old or non-functioning modules can be returned to the manufacturers free of charge as part of a recycling programme.

Research on CdTe is being mostly conducted in the USA. In Germany, this process has not formed a focus of public research programmes in recent years. The current research work is focussing on increasing the previously attained efficiency of 16.5% at the laboratory scale to the theoretically possible value of more than 20%.

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