First Solar, the world’s largest cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar panel manufacturer, has a new competitive neighbor in Northwest Ohio: Toledo Solar has set up in the former Willard & Kelsey Solar Group building in Perrysburg, Ohio, to manufacture CdTe panels for the residential and commercial solar markets.
Atlas Venture Group (parent company of Toledo Solar) acquired the assets of Willard & Kelsey Solar Group in 2019, after working with the Ohio Federal Research Network and the University of Toledo to evaluate the equipment and technology at the Perrysburg location. Willard & Kelsey formed in 2007 as a CdTe manufacturer, and its founders had ties with the early days of nearby First Solar. Willard & Kelsey shuttered in 2013 without turning a profit.
Toledo Solar should begin shipping the non-utility-scale solar panels in June. The company claims to have more than $800 million in purchase orders already. Production has already begun at the plant with an estimated 100 MW of annual capacity and 25 current employees. Company reps said the employee force should expand to 70 by year’s end. By 2026, Toledo Solar expects to be producing 850 MW of panels annually, the company said in a press release.
While First Solar primarily serves the utility-scale solar market with its CdTe panels, Toledo Solar will focus on the residential and commercial markets.
“The timing is right to launch this solar venture. Reliable CdTe solar manufacturing was born here in Toledo Ohio. Solar Cells Inc. and their partners at the University of Toledo created CdTe solar films in the 1990s. The technology was then successfully commercialized by industry leader First Solar,” said Toledo Solar’s Chief Technology Officer Dr. Alvin Compaan. “With several decades of collective experience in CdTe, a well-developed supply chain combined with the region’s rich knowledge of CdTe thin film manufacturing, we could not be situated better geographically.”
Thin-film solar panels have better resistance to shading and lower degradation rates than traditional crystalline-silicon, but thin-film panels often have less power and less efficiency. One needs more thin-film panels to produce the same power as crystalline-silicon in a smaller area. That is the primary reason why thin-film has not taken off in non-utility markets. Read more about thin-film here.
Toledo Solar is offering an industry standard 25-year warranty for its all-glass, frameless CdTe modules. The “TS 115” panels are 60 x 120 cm and assumed to produce 115 W (same size and power as First Solar’s Series 4 modules).