Evaluating the economic viability of CdTe/CIS and CIGS/CIS tandem photovoltaic modules

Sanjini U. Nanayakkara, Kelsey Horowitz, Ana Kanevce, Michael Woodhouse, Paul Basore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus Citations


We analyze the potential cost competitiveness of two frameless, glass-glass thin-film tandem photovoltaic module structures, cadmium telluride (CdTe)/CuInSe2 (CIS) and CuIn0.3Ga0.7Se2 (CIGS)/CIS, based on the demonstrated cost of manufacturing the respective component cell technologies in high volume. To consider multiple economic scenarios, we base the CdTe/CIS module efficiency on the current industrial production of CdTe modules, while for CIGS/CIS, we use an aspirational estimate for CIGS efficiency. We focus on four-terminal mechanically stacked structures, thus avoiding the need to achieve current matching between the two cells. The top cell in such a tandem must have a transparent back contact, which has not been successfully implemented to date. However, for the purpose of understanding the economic viability of both tandems, we assume that this can be implemented at a cost similar to that of sputtered indium tin oxide. The cost of both tandem module structures was found to be nearly identical on an equal-area basis and approximately $30/m2 higher than the single-junction alternatives. Both tandem modules are about 4% (absolute) more efficient than a module by using the top-cell material alone. We find that these tandem modules might reduce total system cost by as much as 11% in applications having a high area-related balance-of-system cost, such as area-constrained residential systems; however, the relative advantage of tandems decreases in the cases where balance-of-system costs are lower, such as in commercial and utility scale systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-279
Number of pages9
JournalProgress in Photovoltaics: Research and Applications
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5K00-65845


  • CdTe
  • CIGS
  • CIS
  • cost modeling
  • photovoltaics
  • tandems
  • thin-film solar cells


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