Connect with us

Cleantech

NREL & First Solar Celebrate Nearly 30 Years of Collaboration on Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) Solar Cell Research

Published

on

By Josh Rasmussen

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has more than 550 unique, active partners. One such partner is First Solar Inc. — a relationship that dates back to the early ‘90s. NREL and First Solar, then called Solar Cells Inc., have been collaboratively breaking ground on thin film solar technology for more than two decades, helping NREL fulfill its goal as a Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory of commercializing technology through partnerships, and contributing to First Solar’s success in development, manufacturing, and operation of photovoltaic (PV) power plants with technology that still bucks industry trends.

In early July, First Solar made headlines when it announced its intention to construct a $680 million solar panel manufacturing factory in Ohio, bringing with it an estimated 500 jobs. The announcement came just seven months into the inaugural year of the Biden administration, whose intersecting priorities to “build a modern, sustainable infrastructure and an equitable clean energy future” and “ensure the future is ‘made in all of America’ by all of America’s workers” have been well supported by Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.

NREL is on the job, working consistently to enable such a future for nearly 45 years. When Solar Cells Inc. came along in the early ‘90s, the collaboration centered around the reliability, stability, and efficiency of the thin film cadmium telluride (“CdTe” for short) technology that it was using in its solar panels, also called modules. Then and now, the vast majority of solar modules are of crystalline silicon construction instead of cadmium telluride.

First Solar, an NREL research partner, has installed a small PV array used as part of NREL Energy Systems Integration research at the laboratory’s National Wind Technology Center. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL.

The Early Days of the NREL–First Solar Partnership

In 1991, NREL was designated a national laboratory by President George Bush and renamed from its original title, the Solar Energy Research Institute. It was a different time, and unique approaches were taken with research related to CdTe technology.

NREL Group Manager of Materials Reliability and Durability Teresa Barnes said, “in those early times, it was scrappy little startup companies and it was a bunch of old friends working together. The CdTe community has always been very, very small. It was primarily in the U.S., and it was a much smaller research community than any other solar technology that I’ve ever worked in.”

Larry Kazmerski, a retired NREL senior scientist who headed materials and characterization for solar research at NREL at the time, said, for the duration of his time working on Solar Cells Inc. projects, there was never a nondisclosure agreement in place. It was just trust.

“You have to realize they didn’t come to NREL and say, ‘Hey we have a problem. Can you solve it?’” he said. “They would bring people out, and there would be discussion, and people would be looking at it in the lab together. It was a fairly open policy. They could come in and work together without much of a problem.”

Kazmerski saw a larger dependence on NREL, especially in the solar PV area with DOE, industries, and universities. It was more of a partnership of all players. During his time at NREL, Kazmerski recalled two NREL researchers who played key roles in moving CdTe research forward. One was Tom Surek, who pushed university, industry, and national laboratory partnerships, and who Kazmerski called the kingpin of the PV program management side. The other was Ken Zweibel, who brought his physics degree to the program management side of the house and was key in selling the laboratory on the value of CdTe. Kazmerski said they were blessed with program managers who were highly technical.

Reliability of CdTe solar cells was critical early on. Kazmerski said First Solar did not want to release anything until it was ready. They knew they had to have reliable modules. They tested everything to death and worked with NREL to validate efficiency and reliability. Barnes said First Solar is one of the best in the business for understanding reliability and durability, and NREL has learned a lot from the partnership and how it affects product development.

In fact, NREL is still learning from that early success today, thanks to one especially noteworthy achievement that planted roots two and a half decades ago. Twenty-five years ago, NREL installed a 0.6 kW Solar Cells Inc. PV system with 12 modules for a long-term test at the Outdoor Testing Facility. Those modules are still operating today.

Dirk Jordan, a senior engineer at NREL who studies the long-term performance of PV systems and analyzes the physics and chemistry of changes, said, “it’s the longest running system we have. It showed the degradation of a pretty reasonable 0.5% per year, which is in line with what silicon systems do.”

A First Solar 1.5-kW array composed of 80-W CIS modules is undergoing long-term reliability testing at NREL’s Outdoor Test Facility (OTF). Photo by Harin Ullal, NREL.

A Few Key Milestones in the Journey

NREL and First Solar have crossed a series of thresholds together and hit numerous milestones along the way. NREL Director of the Power Systems Engineering Center Ben Kroposki said producing a CdTe cell that converted light to electricity with 10% efficiency was a major accomplishment  Further research and development has led to today’s CdTe solar cells with efficiencies above 20%.

“When they were first coming out, they did not have very high-efficiency modules, but in working with them — and this was pretty early on — they always had a good idea of how to mass produce panels where they were basically making glass and depositing the CdTe on the glass,” he said. “They had a breakthrough working with some of the materials people at NREL that pushed efficiencies over 10%. That’s one of the big milestones: once they crossed over 10% efficiency and could start mass producing using their production techniques. That was a game-changer for these large-scale systems.”

Scalability has always set the First Solar partnership apart. A partnership goes two ways and where NREL was able to help test, validate, and provide fundamental research for First Solar, First Solar was able to teach NREL a thing or two as well.

“I think First Solar is always our example of how important it is to have a really manufacturable, scalable, steady process and to the importance of reproducibility,” Barnes said. “Because they got so good at scaling those results as they came through, they can now take that latest and greatest and scale it very quickly. For us, it was learning the lesson of not just going for that one, record cell, but understanding what the manufacturable technology limits are and having a process window that’s big enough to actually work with.”

Matt Reese, an NREL senior scientist and CdTe lead, recalled when, several years ago, the NREL group wanted to identify the sources of voltage loss in CdTe cells compared with competing technologies. The group developed experimental models and determined the problem was coming from the copper used to dope the CdTe cells. “Copper moves around a lot and is one of the biggest causes of instability and limits the efficiency,” Reese said.

First Solar found out NREL was working on this, and told NREL they would like the research to be conducted as precompetitive, meaning it would be done much more openly and for the purpose of developing new commercially applicable technologies.

“It turned out we were able — for the first time and using single crystals — instead of getting 0.85 volts, we were able to get out more than a volt,” Reese said. “We understood what was wrong with the system. Once we had this demonstration, First Solar was very excited and started working on its copper replacement process.”

Nature Energy published a paper on crossing the 1-volt barrier with single crystals. Three years later, NREL and First Solar published a paper together, again in Nature Energy, showing that manufacturable thin-film CdTe devices doped with arsenic have efficiencies on par with copper (Cu)-doped devices and a much lower long-term degradation rate. This new technology, called “CuRe” (Cu Replacement), is currently being implemented in First Solar manufacturing lines, paving the way for CdTe cells to become even more efficient and reliable.

Brandi Williams (left) and Brian Loskorn work in the Edge Trim Station on the Series 4 production line at the First Solar manufacturing plant in Perrysburg, Ohio. Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL.

Through the years, as technology has advanced, First Solar has occasionally licensed NREL-developed technology, the earliest on record coming in 2007. Reese said having First Solar succeed is a win and it means they are doing something right. Kazmerski noted from the early days how those at NREL also felt any success from industry reflected well on them.

NREL and First Solar continue to work together closely. “NREL recently designed and built a successful vapor transport deposition tool like the one used by First Solar to deposit CdTe films,” said David Albin, another lead CdTe researcher at NREL. “This increases the relevancy of NREL’s work for First Solar. In addition to a long-standing Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), we have recently partnered with them in two different cost-share projects that are studying the compatibility of NREL intellectual property with their process.”

Gang Xiong, director of the First Solar California Technology Center, has witnessed the NREL–First Solar collaboration on CdTe research for a decade. “The collaboration is fruitful as we can leverage the complimentary strength of both parties to advance the CdTe solar cell technology together,” he said.

“This partnership truly does add up to more than the sum of its parts. First Solar is really good at screening innovative ideas rapidly and driving toward perfection in our R&D labs and our manufacturing lines. NREL is a great source of idea generation, and they have a lot of expertise in characterizing and understanding material/device performance-related issues. We openly share our R&D priorities with each other.”

How NREL and First Solar Helped Shape the Solar Industry

The significance of the partnership and the work jointly produced has had an impact on the solar industry beyond simply taking the last survivor of the initial wave of early CdTe companies to the top. It has established a blueprint for introducing and scaling up new technologies and helped push the boundaries and test the limits of what’s possible.

“We have a market of silicon that is always changing and improving and of course CdTe,” Kazmerski said. “If it wasn’t for CdTe, maybe we wouldn’t even be looking at perovskites now. People started to look for alternative thin films that are better. These guys are always keeping on top of things to see if they can’t themselves come into this and be a player or find out what the competition is doing. First Solar is here to stay with their CdTe, but they have shown that a thin film can be very, very competitive. The perovskite people are starting to mimic what First Solar did to show that these modules are really stable.”


Text Version


Kroposki said First Solar got out in front of another emerging trend as well.

“Early on in the game, they decided to implement full-scale recycling, so they really understand the process end-to-end,” he said. “Only now are the crystalline manufacturers realizing they have to get into this recycling game and start to think about that.”

Barnes acknowledged the success of First Solar and called attention to the importance of having some healthy competition. She also said the fact that they are one of the few U.S. companies still in the business is also important, but First Solar has been looking to advance CdTe technology beyond just what it is using in its modules.

In March 2021, after a series of workshops begun in 2017, Colorado State University, the University of Toledo, NREL, and Tempe, Arizona-headquartered First Solar kicked off an alliance called the U.S. Manufacturing of Advanced Cadmium Telluride (US-MAC) photovoltaics consortium, designed “To further reinforce U.S. leadership in solar technology.”

The press release from the University of Toledo read, “US-MAC will work with its members to advance foundational science and engineering, stimulate innovation, and capitalize on shared resources and expertise. It aims to support increased production volume, optimize performance, and to diversify, integrate, and support the success of domestic firms.” US-MAC includes a total of 10 industry partners (including First Solar) interested in furthering the success of CdTe PV.

“This partnership is one of the best examples of why the lab was set up originally and why it was developed as it was,” Kazmerski said. “It showed that the lab could really help a U.S. industry.”

Learn more about partnering with NREL.

Article courtesy of NREL, the U.S. Department of Energy.


Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.


 



 


Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/07/16/nrel-first-solar-celebrate-nearly-30-years-of-collaboration-on-cadmium-telluride-solar-cell-research/

Cleantech

Solar Retailers: Stop Searching For Solar Marketing Ideas. Your Passage To Growth Has Finally Arrived.

Published

on

Wednesday, July 28, 2021 – PV Passage is here with the goal to disrupt the solar industry. They are paving the way for smaller suppliers to compete against large-scale, corporate retailers.

Built from a team of industry professionals, each member has over 14 years of experience in the solar market. Lived experience from the days of pre-$8000 government rebates through turbulent markets and an ever-evolving industry to successfully support retailers in becoming long-term resilient players.

Acting as a guide, PV Passage’s purpose is to support the smaller suppliers in each step of the process. From lead generation to supply management to sales training, PV Passage is here to even the playing field, giving David the slingshot he needs to take on Goliath.

With a formula of proven solar marketing ideas, reliable and consistent supply, in-depth sales training, and a deep understanding of the industry, the team at PV Passage has got all you need to grow your striving business to reach its full potential

It’s no secret that the more prominent international suppliers dominate the industry. These companies have a stronghold in the supply chain. With no exclusivity offered, retailers are competing against each other for small profit margins. For the smaller of these retailers, it can be simply too hard to compete – until now.

No matter where in Australia you are located, PV Passage has proven solutions. From solar in Tasmania to Townsville to Byron Bay and beyond, a tailored solution to suit your business’s goals is waiting for you.

With vast experience navigating a competitive and cut-throat industry, the PV Passage team has identified the gaps that restrain quality operators from expanding beyond their limits. Knowing your product and delivering a flawless service is not always enough. Raising your profile to a necessary point of scale takes time and knowledge. This is where the challenges arise. This is where PV Passage fills the gap for small but ambitious solar providers.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The only solar distributor in Australia to offer real-world competitive advantages for the growing solar retailer. Advantages such as product exclusivity, geo exclusivity, tailored sales training, and a reliable supply chain. Retailers have the chance to skip the competition and focus on what they’re good at: providing a high-quality service.

PV Passage is looking for candidates that best match their growth model, and partnerships are limited, so enquire now if your business is ready to take passage.

Contact at www.pvpassage.com.au.


Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.


 



 


Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/07/28/solar-retailers-stop-searching-for-solar-marketing-ideas-your-passage-to-growth-has-finally-arrived/

Continue Reading

Cleantech

Solar Retailers: Stop Searching For Solar Marketing Ideas. Your Passage To Growth Has Finally Arrived.

Published

on

Wednesday, July 28, 2021 – PV Passage is here with the goal to disrupt the solar industry. They are paving the way for smaller suppliers to compete against large-scale, corporate retailers.

Built from a team of industry professionals, each member has over 14 years of experience in the solar market. Lived experience from the days of pre-$8000 government rebates through turbulent markets and an ever-evolving industry to successfully support retailers in becoming long-term resilient players.

Acting as a guide, PV Passage’s purpose is to support the smaller suppliers in each step of the process. From lead generation to supply management to sales training, PV Passage is here to even the playing field, giving David the slingshot he needs to take on Goliath.

With a formula of proven solar marketing ideas, reliable and consistent supply, in-depth sales training, and a deep understanding of the industry, the team at PV Passage has got all you need to grow your striving business to reach its full potential

It’s no secret that the more prominent international suppliers dominate the industry. These companies have a stronghold in the supply chain. With no exclusivity offered, retailers are competing against each other for small profit margins. For the smaller of these retailers, it can be simply too hard to compete – until now.

No matter where in Australia you are located, PV Passage has proven solutions. From solar in Tasmania to Townsville to Byron Bay and beyond, a tailored solution to suit your business’s goals is waiting for you.

With vast experience navigating a competitive and cut-throat industry, the PV Passage team has identified the gaps that restrain quality operators from expanding beyond their limits. Knowing your product and delivering a flawless service is not always enough. Raising your profile to a necessary point of scale takes time and knowledge. This is where the challenges arise. This is where PV Passage fills the gap for small but ambitious solar providers.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

The only solar distributor in Australia to offer real-world competitive advantages for the growing solar retailer. Advantages such as product exclusivity, geo exclusivity, tailored sales training, and a reliable supply chain. Retailers have the chance to skip the competition and focus on what they’re good at: providing a high-quality service.

PV Passage is looking for candidates that best match their growth model, and partnerships are limited, so enquire now if your business is ready to take passage.

Contact at www.pvpassage.com.au.


Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.


 



 


Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/07/28/solar-retailers-stop-searching-for-solar-marketing-ideas-your-passage-to-growth-has-finally-arrived/

Continue Reading

Cleantech

Microgrids in Australia — the Next Big Step

Published

on

Australia is one of the leaders in the world in the adaptation of electrical power grids to the new technologies of renewable energy. Famous for the Hornsdale Power Reserve (Tesla’s Big Battery in South Australia), the country is now trialing microgrids with smaller batteries in cities (Sydney and Melbourne), isolated country towns, and mining complexes. 

In Melbourne, the city council is seeking to establish a network of 5 MW batteries (the Power Melbourne Project). These batteries will enable a more efficient use of the network, putting power back in when it is needed the most. Early days yet — more details to be revealed. 

Meanwhile, Melbourne has already launched its first 150kW community battery and two more are to be commissioned. The benefit of these batteries is a more efficient use of solar power generated by users within their radius. These users will be able to store excess power generated during daylight hours, then draw it down after dark, rather than taking it from the grid. It is expected that this will reduce costs for participants and help stabilize the grid. Ausgrid is not currently charging for this service. 

“Put simply, a community battery allows multiple households within a certain radius to ‘share’ a storage system for the excess energy generated by solar panels. This can save households thousands of dollars on the upfront cost of an individual battery, and allow them to effectively use more of the solar energy their home systems generate — bringing down their electricity costs,” Ausgrid CEO Richard Gross said.

Many isolated communities, including those hit by the savage bushfires of 2020, have unreliable and expensive electricity. Now 20 of those communities have received funding under the Commonwealth Government’s Regional and Remote Communities Reliability Fund. These funds will allow the communities to become “islandable” — able to operate even when disconnected from the main grid. Renewable energy and batteries will replace expensive and polluting diesel generators.

In sparsely populated Western Australia, power companies are encouraging those who live at the periphery of long power distribution lines to go solar with battery backup (and a diesel generator  to be sure). It is becoming cheaper to install renewables than it is the maintain the long power lines. 

Mining operators led by Twiggy Forest (Australia’s “Outback Steve Jobs”) are moving rapidly to solar arrays with battery backup — much cheaper than trucking in diesel tankers thousands of kilometers into the never, never.

“Every Australian — no matter where they live — should be confident that they will have the power they need, when they need it, and at an affordable price,” said Angus Taylor, Federal Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister.

Hear, Hear!


Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.


 



 


Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/07/28/microgrids-in-australia-the-next-big-step/

Continue Reading

Cleantech

Microgrids in Australia — the Next Big Step

Published

on

Australia is one of the leaders in the world in the adaptation of electrical power grids to the new technologies of renewable energy. Famous for the Hornsdale Power Reserve (Tesla’s Big Battery in South Australia), the country is now trialing microgrids with smaller batteries in cities (Sydney and Melbourne), isolated country towns, and mining complexes. 

In Melbourne, the city council is seeking to establish a network of 5 MW batteries (the Power Melbourne Project). These batteries will enable a more efficient use of the network, putting power back in when it is needed the most. Early days yet — more details to be revealed. 

Meanwhile, Melbourne has already launched its first 150kW community battery and two more are to be commissioned. The benefit of these batteries is a more efficient use of solar power generated by users within their radius. These users will be able to store excess power generated during daylight hours, then draw it down after dark, rather than taking it from the grid. It is expected that this will reduce costs for participants and help stabilize the grid. Ausgrid is not currently charging for this service. 

“Put simply, a community battery allows multiple households within a certain radius to ‘share’ a storage system for the excess energy generated by solar panels. This can save households thousands of dollars on the upfront cost of an individual battery, and allow them to effectively use more of the solar energy their home systems generate — bringing down their electricity costs,” Ausgrid CEO Richard Gross said.

Many isolated communities, including those hit by the savage bushfires of 2020, have unreliable and expensive electricity. Now 20 of those communities have received funding under the Commonwealth Government’s Regional and Remote Communities Reliability Fund. These funds will allow the communities to become “islandable” — able to operate even when disconnected from the main grid. Renewable energy and batteries will replace expensive and polluting diesel generators.

In sparsely populated Western Australia, power companies are encouraging those who live at the periphery of long power distribution lines to go solar with battery backup (and a diesel generator  to be sure). It is becoming cheaper to install renewables than it is the maintain the long power lines. 

Mining operators led by Twiggy Forest (Australia’s “Outback Steve Jobs”) are moving rapidly to solar arrays with battery backup — much cheaper than trucking in diesel tankers thousands of kilometers into the never, never.

“Every Australian — no matter where they live — should be confident that they will have the power they need, when they need it, and at an affordable price,” said Angus Taylor, Federal Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister.

Hear, Hear!


Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.


 



 


Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
Click here to access.

Source: https://cleantechnica.com/2021/07/28/microgrids-in-australia-the-next-big-step/

Continue Reading
Esports4 days ago

Teppei Genshin Impact Voice Actor: Who is it?

Esports4 days ago

Who won Minecraft Championships (MCC) 15? | Final Standings and Scores

Esports5 days ago

All ranked mode rewards for Pokémon UNITE: Season 1

Aviation3 days ago

Legendary F-14 Pilot Dale ‘Snort’ Snodgrass Dies In A Tragic Plane Crash

Cleantech4 days ago

Form Energy Reveals Iron-Air 100 Hour Storage Battery

Esports4 days ago

Sakura Arborism Genshin Impact: How to Complete

Esports5 days ago

Here are the results for the PUBG Mobile World Invitational (PMWI) West 2021

watch-live-russias-pirs-module-set-to-depart-space-station-today.jpg
Aerospace3 days ago

Watch live: Russia’s Pirs module set to depart space station today

Esports5 days ago

Here are the results for the PUBG Mobile World Invitational (PMWI) East 2021

best-gengar-build-in-pokemon-unite.png
Esports4 days ago

Best Gengar build in Pokémon UNITE

Techcrunch4 days ago

This Week in Apps: Clubhouse opens up, Twitter talks bitcoin, Snap sees record quarter

Cyber Security5 days ago

Threat Actors are Abusing Argo Workflows to Target Kubernetes

Esports5 days ago

Are there ranked rewards in Pokémon UNITE?

Esports4 days ago

Best Garchomp build in Pokémon UNITE

Cyber Security5 days ago

What Programming Language Should I Learn for CyberSecurity?

Blockchain4 days ago

Canadian Border Town Halts Crypto Mining to Draw Up Regulations

Esports4 days ago

How to unlock Pokémon in Pokémon UNITE, all Unite License costs

AR/VR4 days ago

Warplanes: WW1 Fighters to See Official Oculus Quest Store Launch This Week

AI4 days ago

What is the Freedom Phone and Should You Buy It?

Crowdfunding4 days ago

Calgary, Alberta’s Allied Venture Partners Confirms they’ve Invested $1M+ into Early-Stage Tech Firms

Trending