Mines plays crucial role in GE's Colorado solar panel manufacturing plant


GOLDEN, Colo., Oct. 14, 2011 – Colorado School of Mines research has been instrumental in the development of cost effective cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin film solar cells — the technology to be used in the photovoltaic panels to be manufactured by General Electric in its recently announced $300 million Colorado plant. The facility will be the largest solar panel manufacturing plant in the U.S.

“Construction of this factory in Aurora is a major investment in solar energy for GE. It shows that they believe the US economy will improve, demand for photovoltaic panels will continue to increase, and photovoltaics will provide an increasing part of our energy mix,” said Joe Beach, Mines research associate professor in the physics department and one of the original founders of PrimeStar Solar, Inc. GE purchased PrimeStar in April with the intent to scale up production of the company’s CdTe photovoltaic panel – some of the most efficient CdTe solar panels ever made.
Several of PrimeStar Solar’s founders and researchers were trained in CdTe technology at Colorado School of Mines.
“In the early stages of PrimeStar, Mines labs and research expertise made it possible for the company to produce our CdTe solar cells,” said Brian Murphy, the founding CEO of PrimeStar and this semester’s executive in residence at Mines.
Among other universities, Mines research abilities in CdTe technology are unique. Mines scientists have expertise the whole life cycle of a CdTe solar panel – from the geology and mining of its elements from the earth, to researching the technology and building the panel, and finally recycling the materials after the panel’s lifespan.
These are a few examples of Mines research projects in solar energy currently under way:
  • Research Associate Professor of Physics Joe Beach has a patent pending for a more scalable method for making Cadmium Stannate films, a material that transmits light and conducts electricity. This material has been used in high efficiency laboratory CdTe cells and may help improve commercial CdTe panels.
  • Associate Professor Tim Ohno uses electrical and optical methods to study how the fabrication processes change the structure of the CdTe solar cells.
  • Professor Reuben Collins and Physics Department Head Tom Furtak study organic solar cells with support from the National Science Foundation.
  • The NSF Renewable Energy Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (REMRSEC) at Mines conducts materials research for applications in future solar technologies.
  • Physics Professor Mark Lusk leads a group of research colleagues at Mines studying quantum dots, man-made atoms that confine electrons to a small space. They have unusual electronic properties on a nano-scale and may be particularly valuable in tailoring the way light interacts with matter.
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / KGilbert@mines.edu
David Tauchen, Public Relations Specialist / 303-273-3088 / DTauchen@mines.edu



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