Increasing demand in new application fields combined with positive market sentiment and tightening supply could push the global tellurium prices higher.
Tellurium plays a key role in the clean-energy transition, as it is used in cadmium telluride (CdTe)-based thin-film solar cells. Solar panels accounted for 40 percent of the global tellurium consumption in 2021, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects crystalline silicon modules to continue to dominate the solar panel market. However, the demand for tellurium could grow sevenfold to 1.400 tons by 2040 if further progress is made to better compete with the market leader. Already in October 2022, US-based First Solar, one of the world’s largest CdTe panel manufacturers, announced a significant investment to ramp up its production.
According to the Argus Media Group, CdTe-based solar panels also increasingly compete with new applications for tellurium. For example, the UK-based cadmium zinc telluride (CZT) producer Kromek has signed multiple deals in the past month to develop CZT detectors for medical imaging. Additional new applications and increasing adoption of CdTe-based solar panels could drive tellurium consumption beyond the current global supply. China is currently dominating the refined tellurium industry, producing 340 of the only 580 tons mined globally in 2021.