So­lar en­ergy in­dus­try is heat­ing up

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - NEWS -

Con­sis­tent im­prove­ments in tech­nol­ogy and grad­u­ally lower costs will drive high­con­cen­tra­tion pho­to­voltaic (HCPV) sys­tems to su­pe­rior ef­fi­cien­cies, mak­ing HCPV an in­creas­ingly vi­able ri­val to con­ven­tional so­lar-gen­er­at­ing so­lu­tions, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est anal­y­sis from IHS Tech­nol­ogy.

The cell ef­fi­ciency of HCPV sys­tems, cur­rently at 40 to 42 per­cent, will ex­ceed 45 per­cent by 2017. Such cells, used with con­cen­trat­ing op­tics, will then lead to commercial-sys­tem ef­fi­cien­cies ap­proach­ing 40 per­cent, com­pared to the less than 35 per­cent con­ver­sion rates typ­i­cal at present, as shown in the at­tached fig­ure.

“Ef­fi­ciency is the most im­por­tant re­quire­ment in CPV tech­nol­ogy in or­der to gen­er­ate com­pet­i­tive en­ergy costs,” said Karl Melkonyan, pho­to­voltaic an­a­lyst at IHS. “And with the so­lar in­dus­try con­tin­u­ing to be firmly en­gaged in a quest for on­go­ing im­prove­ments through the de­vel­op­ment of new tech­nolo­gies, the ef­fi­ciency of HCPV cells will ad­vance over the years.”

The an­tic­i­pated im­prove­ments in HCPV sys­tems are based on cell ef­fi­cien­cies hav­ing reached 44.7 per­cent in lab­o­ra­tory con­di­tions, in­di­cat­ing that fur­ther ad­vances are pos­si­ble.

Even so, the gains in ef­fi­ciency will have to be bal­anced against the additional man­u­fac­tur­ing costs ex­pected to be in­curred when im­ple­ment­ing the im­prove­ments, Melkonyan noted.

These find­ings can be found in the re­port, “CPV on the Edge of Break­through,” from the so­lar re­search ser­vice at IHS.

Driven by fall­ing sys­tem prices, HCPV is grad­u­ally be­com­ing at­trac­tive in sev­eral re­gions of the world. IHS fore­casts that the United States and Cen­tral Amer­ica will in­stall the largest num­ber of HCPV sys­tems be­tween 2012 and 2017, serv­ing as the world's big­gest re­gional mar­ket. In­stal­la­tions for the re­gion reached 54.1 megawatts in 2012.

Most HCPV sup­pli­ers are, in fact, based in the United States, and their for­ays into the do­mes­tic US mar­ket will pro­vide no­tice to ri­val con­ven­tional PV sup­pli­ers. Mex­ico is also fore­cast to be­come a large part of this re­gional mar­ket, with plans in place for a 450-megawatt in­stal­la­tion.

Mean­while, enor­mous growth will oc­cur in South Amer­ica, where the HCPV mar­ket is pro­jected to surge by 560 per­cent from the time in­stal­la­tions start in 2013 un­til the end of the fore­cast pe­riod in 2017. The pri­mary driver of South Amer­i­can ex­pan­sion is Chile, which has the world's high­est so­lar ir­ra­di­a­tion lev­els im­por­tant for so­lar-power gen­er­a­tion.

But the great­est in­crease in the HPCV mar­ket will take place in the Mid­dle East and Africa re­gion. HCPV in­stal­la­tions for the re­gion – ex­clud­ing South Africa, which is tracked separately be­cause of its more ad­vanced PV mar­ket – will grow to 155 megawatts in 2017, up from just 1.8 megawatts in 2012. Morocco and Saudi Ara­bia will be the main driv­ers.

China could also emerge as an im­por­tant player soon as sup­pli­ers from the coun­try grow in num­ber, with parts of south­west China shap­ing up to be­come prime HCPV lo­ca­tions.

Un­able to keep pace with the dra­matic cost and price re­duc­tions that con­ven­tional PV saw, many CPV pi­o­neers faced fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties in the course of the PV price col­lapse that took place in 2011 and 2012. Nu­mer­ous for­merly leading com­pa­nies – among them SolFo­cus and GreenVolts from Cal­i­for­nia, as well as Opel So­lar from Con­necti­cut – ceased op­er­a­tions or be­came in­sol­vent.

The in­dus­try has re­gained sta­bil­ity since 2013, how­ever, and ad­vances in new tech­nolo­gies con­tinue to re­duce costs. Just the same, only a few sur­vivors are left from that tu­mul­tuous pe­riod, and those that re­main are the ones with large cash bal­ances and the most cost-ef­fi­cient tech­nolo­gies.

Among the ma­jor play­ers, the two big­gest CPV man­u­fac­tur­ers – Suncore Pho­to­voltaics from China and Soitec So­lar from France – will each be ex­pect­ing HCPV in­stal­la­tions of about 50 megawatts by the end of the year.

Suncore and Soitec – along with top five sup­pli­ers So­laria and SunPower from Cal­i­for­nia, and Mag­power SA from Por­tu­gal – ac­count for more than 80 per­cent of the CPV mar­ket at present. Two other man­u­fac­tur­ers – He­liotrop from France and North Carolina-based Sem­prius – could also join the ranks of the top 10 this year.

The HCPV sup­plier base will con­tinue to change in the next five years as the cur­rent mar­ket is still in its early phases of growth, with sev­eral new­com­ers and start-ups ex­pected to liven up the com­pe­ti­tion, IHS be­lieves.

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