The materials’ battle in the solar cell industry is heating up. The main goals: reduce costs and boost power output. The big technology player remains first-generation solar cells that are silicon wafer based. Tight supplies and high costs have spurred activity in alternate technologies, such as conductive plastics.
General Electric announced this week that it will introduce solar cells made with thin-film cadmium telluride to complement its current line of silicon solar cells. Thin-film cells typically use less than 1 percent of the silicon required for wafer-based solar cells. The result: a big price drop per Watt peak capacity.
In 2008, GE bought a majority position in PrimeStar Solar, to build a beachhead in the cadmium telluride technology, which has a lower power output than conventional silicon approaches. Silicon cells are above 20 percent in efficiency, compared to a projected 12 percent for cadmium telluride , according to GE.
“We are excited about it because it can produce in diffuse light,” says Michael Idelchik, vice president of advanced technologies at GE Global Research. “The module (panel) life is 20 years — that’s what the customer wants. It has the right production costs and right efficiency target.”
The announcement was made at MIT’s Emerging Technologies Conference in Cambridge, MA.