Abstract: The technology to fabricate CdTe/CdS thin film solar cells can be considered mature for a large-scale production of CdTe-based modules. Several reasons contribute to demonstrate this assertion: a stable efficiency of 16.5% has been demonstrated for 1 cm2 laboratory cell and it is expected that an efficiency of 12% can be obtained for 0.6 × 1.2 m2 modules; low cost soda lime float glass can be used as a substrate; the amount of source material is at least 100 times less than that used for single crystal modules and is a negligible part of the overall cost. The fabrication process can be completely automated and a production yield of one module every 2 min can be obtained, which implies a production cost substantially less than 1€/WP. A further cost reduction will render this kind of energy production competitive with the energy obtained from fossil fuels by approaching the so-called grid-parity. Some new companies have recently announced the start of production or plan to do so in the near future. Many of these plants are located in Germany, some in the USA. In Italy, a new company has been constituted in 2008, with the aim of building a factory with a capacity of 18 MW/year. In this article, we will describe and compare the basic principles of CdTe solar cells and modules. We will include an overview of the potentials of these technologies and of the R&D issues under investigation. This paper describes how the large-area mass production of CdTe solar modules is realized in the Italian factory and presents a worldwide overview of the current production activities.
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