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Materials Availability, Working Paper I: Thin Film Photovoltaics.

Citation Speirs, J., Gross, R., Candelise, C. and Gross, B. Materials Availability, Working Paper I: Thin Film Photovoltaics.. UKERC. 2013.
Author(s) Speirs, J., Gross, R., Candelise, C. and Gross, B.
Publisher UKERC
Download Materials_Availability_Working_Paper_I_Thin_Film_photovoltaics.pdf document type
UKERC Report Number UKERC/WP/TPA/2011/002

The Paper considers first demand for indium and tellurium from the PV industry, now and in future. Whilst a range of scenarios exist for the role of PV in the global energy mix there is considerable agreement that the share of PV per se and thin film devices in particular is expected to expand considerably in the light of carbon abatement goals.

The paper then considers the supply of indium and tellurium. It provides a detailed review of the processes used to extract and refine them, and discusses the issues associated with producing these secondary metals which are extracted as trace elements during the production of primary metals such as zinc and copper. The Paper finds that there are considerable complexities associated with reported reserves and an absence of meaningful data on resources. Again, existing estimates of availability for the PV market are reviewed. This alsoreveals considerable variation within the literature and the use of a wide a range of assumptions upon which to base resource availability.

The paper concludes that there is no immediate cause for concern about availability of either indium or tellurium. PV occupies a small fraction of current markets and there is evidence of considerable potential to increase the extraction of both metals because a sizeable proportion of the material potentially available from primary metal extraction is not currently utilised. Moreover, there is potential to increase recycling of products containing indium or tellurium, for example from flat screens. However, the scale of the roll out of PV ~ vi ~ envisaged in some scenarios could imply a large expansion in the demand for indium and tellurium. There is no reason to believe that this is not feasible, however adequate data on reserves and resources do not exist. Resource estimates are not available and simplistic assumptions such as using current production or crustal abundance to estimate potential supply cannot provide any meaningful insight into future production. A scenario approach that links production to primary metals is appropriate. We conclude that considerable further research is needed to characterise indium and tellurium resources and the economic feasibility of expanding production.