A next-generation cadmium telluride, thin-film photovoltaic solar module plant will be built in the State of Indiana, it was announced earlier this week. Abound Solar, which specializes in solar modules that reduce the cost of solar power generation, has leased a 781,750 square foot facility in Tipton where it will be establishing the plant. Abound Solar was able to complete the transaction following the closing of a previously announced $400 million U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantee and $110 million equity investment.
Development of the site is expected to begin in 2012 and will generate 1,000 full-time jobs. The plant’s annual capacity is estimated at 640MW.
The facility comprise 104 acres in total and has been purchased by an investment group led by the W.W. Reynolds Companies, from Boulder, Colorado.
“We look forward to extending the relationship we built with Abound Solar as they established their first manufacturing facility in Colorado,” said Bill Reynolds, W.W. Reynolds Companies president. “We are proud to partner with them to revitalize the Tipton site and bring jobs back to Tipton County.”
Cadmium is a lower-cost alternative to silicon in solar manufacturing, but its efficiency rate is also lower (around 11%, compared with the silicon average of 16%). There are also concerns related to safety, since the metal, when ingested by humans in large quantities, is linked to cancer.
According to Tree Hugger, one advantage of the use of cadmium is that the metal has the necessary electric field to turn solar energy into electricity, thanks to the properties of two types of molecules: cadmium sulphite and telluride. It also absorbs sunlight close to the ideal wavelength. Last but not least, it is abundant.
In Europe, solar photovoltaic panels were excluded from a regulation that banned the use of cadmium in electronic products.
The important issue is how to dispose of old solar panels, whole lifespan can last decades. Solar manufacturers need to have in place efficient recycling and disposal programs to prevent metals such as cadmium from contaminating groundwater and the environment in general.
Article by Antonio Pasolini, a Brazilian writer and video art curator based in London, UK. He holds a BA in journalism and an MA in film and television.