The Safety of First Solar’s CdTe Thin Film 0

Those who live near the 230-megawatt Antelope Valley Solar Ranch One want to know whether the 3.7-million cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin film solar panels First Solar will install in their desert terrain are a threat to them.

“I feel somehow that we’re the experimental rat,” one resident said in an email to GTM. “Cadmium? Hmmmmmmm.”

First Solar Director of Environmental and Sustainable Development Dr. Parikhit Sinha explained to a gathering of local leaders that cadmium telluride, “one of the best known semiconductors,” is not the same thing as cadmium.

A very thin layer of CdTe “allows you to absorb all the light needed to create electricity,” he explained. “This is the key to First Solar’s cost-effective and efficient manufacturing.”

A byproduct of mining, Sinha explained, cadmium is highly toxic and carcinogenic. Exposure can cause lung, kidney or liver pathology or failure. In the presence of tellurium, however, cadmium forms a crystalline lattice that is highly stable (high boiling point, low vapor pressure, low solubility). “It likes to be a solid,” Dr. Sinha said. “It is several orders of magnitude — a factor of 100 — less toxic than cadmium.”

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