Rare Metals Supply Concern for Compound Solar Battery

Rare metals supply concern in solar battery increases when compound solar battery demand is expected to increase while silicon based solar battery has large portion. Tellurium supply shortage is getting severe for cadmium telluride battery in offshore market. Japanese industry concerns indium and selenium shortage when major plant starts operation in 2011 to make copper indium gallium selenide battery.

First Solar of USA, which makes cadmium telluride battery, sold around 1,200 gigawatt of battery in electricity generating capacity in 2009, which was world largest volume. The firm increased the sales in USA and Europe with cost competitiveness and better recycling scheme.

Tellurium supply gets tighter with limited production capacity due to the nature of byproduct of copper smelting. Solar battery is estimated to use around 100 tonnes or tellurium or around 30% of the world production. However, some tellurium suppliers provide for solar battery first instead of traditional users in free cutting steel and semiconductor application. The international price of tellurium surged since 2006.

Showa Shell Sekiyu and Honda Motor started test run of new solar battery plant in Miyazaki to make copper indium gallium selenide compound battery. An industry source expects domestic compound battery production could increase to more than silicon based battery in future.

Copper indium gallium selenide compound solar battery has advantage with efficient energy conversion while copper indium selenide battery has longer battery life. However, the rare metals supply is limited. Indium supply is unstable in volume and price when the demand increases for target materials while gallium supply concern increases when the consumption increases for electronic materials. Selenium, which is byproduct of copper smelting, has limited supply. The demand increases for agriculture to compete with solar battery application.