“Most Powerful” CdTe Solar Modules and “Virtual Turnkey” Manufacturing from RSI

July 11, 2013 by Jeff Shepard

REEL Solar, Inc. (RSI) today announced a new world record for cadmium-telluride (CdTe) photovoltaic module size, achieving a 1.5 square meter module. The availability of low cost large-area CdTe panels coupled with localized manufacturing partners hastens the widespread achievement of grid parity for utility scale solar.

Conventional cadmium telluride (CdTe) modules measure 0.72 square meters, a limitation that stems from the use of high temperature CdTe deposition processes. RSI has developed a proprietary tool and low-temperature process, known as Rapid Efficient Electroplating on Large-areas (REEL), that both speeds the plating step and eliminates constraints on panel area. The company projects a manufacturing cost of less than 40 cents per peak watt in 2014. The availability of low-cost, large-area CdTe panels coupled with a business model that leverages regional manufacturing partners promises the widespread acceleration of grid parity for utility scale solar.

"The math is simple for large-area modules", said RSI Co-founder and President Kurt Weiner, "At each step in the manufacturing process we are moving more Watts for a given capex, materials and labor cost. At the end, our panels produce significantly more power so they're cheaper to install. When we founded the company we recognized that in thin-film, you needed larger panel sizes with higher power outputs, in addition to efficiency, to truly differentiate against silicon. We've achieved both at RSI."

"The solar industry is growing massively, but the only manufacturers who have made consistent profits are those with access to proprietary technology." said RSI Chief Executive Ed Grady. "Incremental improvements to undifferentiated technology like crystalline silicon are not enough to prosper in this commoditized market. Manufacturers end up giving away their margin to survive. First Solar has shown how to make profits through technology and cost differentiation. RSI is delivering a step change improvement in the cost structure, while retaining all the characteristics that have made CdTe so successful."

"The combination of low capital need and a focus on solving the key manufacturing scale and capital cost issues made RSI stand out as an investment opportunity." said RSI investor Matt Jones of Nth Power. "RSI had the highest profit and investor return potential of any solar module company we have seen."

Pedram Mokrian from Mayfield Fund is also bullish. "We believe that the solar industry is just beginning to hit its stride. RSI's large-area manufacturing technology based on the proven CdTe material system represents a step change in PV manufacturing costs. Most importantly, our investment focused on the strength of the RSI team, and their ability to execute against this vision." he said.

RSI has been developing low cost electroplating processes since 2009. RSI is now offering a "virtual turnkey" manufacturing capability to a single licensee in each major region of the world.