Embodied Energy and Carbon from the Manufacture of Cadmium Telluride and Silicon Photovoltaics

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus Citations


Looking beyond the traditional cost and efficiency metrics of photovoltaics (PV), this work evaluates the impact of embodied energy, embodied carbon, and energy payback time of two dominant technologies (CdTe and Si) on global decarbonization goals. The relative effects of PV technology type, technological advances, energy grid mix, and recycling are evaluated in terms of fostering decarbonization goals. If the highest carbon-intensity scenarios are realized, 2%–14% of the remaining estimated global carbon budget might be consumed to manufacture modules without including their balance of systems. Applying a carbon cost indicates that CdTe might have an additional value of $0.02–$0.04/W relative to Si PV manufactured with the same energy mix. Due to the scale of the challenge, any actions leading to an increased deployment of thin-film PV and/or a significant decrease in the deployed PV's embodied carbon through changing the manufacturing grid mix have demonstrable value in helping the world stay within its remaining estimated carbon budget.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1710-1725
Number of pages16
Issue number7
StatePublished - 20 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Inc.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5K00-81784


  • cadmium telluride
  • COe
  • embodied carbon
  • embodied energy
  • energy payback time
  • greenhouse gas emission goals
  • perovskite
  • photovoltaics
  • silicon
  • thin film


Dive into the research topics of 'Embodied Energy and Carbon from the Manufacture of Cadmium Telluride and Silicon Photovoltaics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this