The announcement from Tempe-based First Solar last week that they broke the $1 per watt cost for solar photovoltaic panels based on cadmium-tellurium (CdTe), has drawn global attention [right, First Solar FS Series 2 PV Module]. The standard silicon-based solar panels run about 3 times that cost.
Jake, who blogs at Pure Pedantry, looks at what the growing demand for solar panels made from 'exotic' materials means for the solar industry.
He references a new University of Calif./Lawrence Berkeley National Lab study that concludes that CdTe works for meeting a small amount of global energy demand but the economics change when solar makes up 20-30% of the mix. At the higher level, more common/easier to produce minerals will be more successful even though they are not as efficient as the rarer but more costly minerals.
Iron pyrite, copper sulfide, and copper oxide are attractive options according to a report in Popular Mechanics.