First Solar spearheads CdTe thin-film charm offensive with rivals

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A new trade organization established by First Solar and rival CdTe thin-film module producers and suppliers has been formed to promote and educate on the technology’s attributes. Established as a non-profit organization under Belgian law, PVthin founding members include Abound Solar, Arendi, Calyxo, First Solar, GE Energy and 5N Plus. The first President of the PVThin is Andreas Wade, Director Sustainable Development at First Solar.

“The success of thin-film solar panels is one of the most exciting developments in solar energy in recent years,” commented Andreas Wade, President of PVthin. “PVthin was created to champion the role of thin-film PV and communicate the unique technological, environmental and socio-economic aspects of this cost effective and environmentally friendly solar technology. PVthin complements the excellent work of umbrella associations such as EPIA in Europe, SEIA in the US, and BSW in Germany and does not seek to create a rival organization.”

A website has been created by the group members, which has an initial emphasis on the environmental aspects, including LCA (Life Cycle Analysis) traits of using thin film, though defence of cadmium telluride-based modules is also evident.

Over the last few years there has been a campaign in Europe from some of its leading crystalline silicon module manufacturers, such as SolarWorld and REC to question the both the environmental and health and safety aspects of the CdTe-based modules. 

The newly formed group stressed that thin-film PV currently accounts for around 18% of global PV module sales, compared to almost zero a decade ago, while noting its low-cost advantages. However, in reality only First Solar has publicly demonstrated its low-cost leadership, while conventional crystalline silicon technologies have significantly closed the gap on First Solar over just the last few years.

As a consequence of falling polysilicon prices and massive capacity expansions, structural overcapacity has led to a solar shakeout which has impacted thin-film and crystalline firms as well as suppliers.

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