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Do CIGS thin-film production expansions raise material supply concerns?

In the fast-paced world of thin-film PV production, concerns over material supply have often been raised, potentially restricting growth and limiting manufacturing cost reductions as prices of materials such as rare earth metals go through the roof. Speculation can become rife, especially when there is a lack of easily available data on supply and real demand. In the last few years, as CdTe leader First Solar ramped to volume production, tellurium rapidly increased in price, sparking speculation that the material supply was fundamentally limited. We also saw concern at the supply of silane gas for a-Si thin-film production, and now with the expected significant ramp of CIGS solar cells, are concerns over indium and gallium supply justified?
Shyam Mehta, senior analyst of solar markets at Greentech Media, responded to a question I raised at their press conference during Intersolar concerning possible supply constraints on indium and the like. Mehta said they had undertaken a review of these materials and didn’t feel there was a concern for shortages, nor was there a danger of supply limiting capacity expansions.

Obviously, a press conference Q&A was not the time and place to conduct a serious review of the supply side for these materials. A few days later, it was with great interest that I received Indium Corp.’s review of the supply side of these materials. Recently written by Claire Mikolajczak, director, metals and chemicals at Indium, the paper delves into these materials’ actual and theoretical availability.

Below are some key data points and perspectives on supply from the study:


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