What we are up against: Cd-Te (Cadmium-Telluride):
Utilities Still Choose Thin Film Despite Lower Efficiency
Although the Cd-Te thin film panels produced by First Solar have a lower conversion efficiency and a larger physical footprint than polysilicon panels, they are still being widely adopted by utility scale developers. This is primarily because of three factors: lower cost of thin film-based panes, superior performance under variable lighting conditions, and the absence of space constraints for utility projects.
Semiconductor material costs contribute to a large portion of solar panel prices. With Cd-Te thin film technology, First Solar has been able to reduce the amount of semiconductor required to manufacture a panel by up to 98%. In addition, the scale and efficiency of First Solar’s manufacturing process helps the company produce the lowest cost solar panels in the world.
Due to their higher conversion efficiency, polysilicon based panels have a smaller physical footprint per installed watt. This is attractive for applications where space is at a premium, like the rooftop market. However, for utility scale applications, the physical footprint is less of a constraint, as utility projects are usually allotted several acres of land.
Thin film panels perform better under a host of lighting conditions. They deal better with partial coverage such as dirt, shade and snow than their polysilicon counterparts. They also experience lower performance degradation compared to polysilicon panels in extremely hot environments. Their ability to produce electricity at a wider range of lighting conditions makes them attractive to utility companies that require stable, large scale electricity production.
Natcore President's Message
I think it was the 1970s when I first realized that it was no longer possible to buy a television set that was made in America.
As time went on, I began to notice other products that had suffered a similar fate: stereo equipment, digital cameras, and small appliances immediately come to mind. I’m sure you could add to the list.
And I realized this: Whoever owns the technology owns the industry.
We at Natcore are determined that the solar industry will not go the way of the transistor radio. For that reason, much of our time is spent in developing and protecting our solar technology. We are determined that the solar industry will be based on our home soil.
We’ll soon convene a series of meetings with our scientific brain trust, whom we believe are the greatest solar scientists in the world today. This distinguished cadre includes:
Dr. Dennis Flood, Natcore co-founder and Chief Technology Officer. A NASA veteran, with more than 30 years’ experience in developing solar cell and array technology for both space and terrestrial applications.
Dr. Andy Barron, Natcore co-founder. The Charles W. Duncan, Jr.-Welch Chair of Chemistry and Professor of Materials Science at Rice University, as well as a visiting Professor at the University of Wales.
Dr. David Levy, Natcore Director of Research & Technology. A Chemical Engineering PhD, with a minor in Electrical Engineering, from MIT, then 20 years as a research scientist at Eastman Kodak.
Dr. Daniele Margadonna, Chairman, Natcore advisory board. Chief Technology Officer of MX Group SpA in Villasanta, Italy. An international expert in the solar photovoltaic industry with extensive experience in the planning and construction of turnkey photovoltaic plants.