Clean Power

Published on November 24th, 2012 | by Giles Parkinson


Concentrated Photovoltaics (CPV) That Can Deliver $60/MWh?!

November 24th, 2012 by  

This article has been reposted from Renew Economy (image added).

A new Australian solar start-up predicts that its concentrated solar photovoltaic technology (CPV) will undercut both conventional flat plate solar PV technologies and fossil fuel technologies.

The Melbourne-based RayGen Resources has raised $1.6 million in a funding round from private investors, including software entrepreneur Craig Winkler, which will allow it to match grants from the Victorian government and the Australian Solar Institute (totalling $2.75 million).

This money will be used to build a 2kW prototype and then a 200kW pilot plant – touted to be the first commercial design in the world to combine high efficiency solar cells with a low cost heliostat collector systems. It predicts that it can bring costs from CSP to $60 a megawatt hour and below.

Sun shining through clouds via Shutterstock

The ASI, which is contributing $1.75 million of the $3.6 million pilot project cost, said RayGen’s C2PV technology opens up an “immediate opportunity” for a “step reduction” in the cost of large scale solar energy.

By deploying large arrays of relatively inexpensive mirrors, the ASI believes that Raygen can side-step some of the cost issues facing other solar technologies, including concentrated solar thermal (which focuses energy onto one spot so that steam can be generated to drive a turbine).

The attraction of CPV is that it can focus more energy onto highly efficient solar cells, which have an efficiency rating double that of conventional flat panel PV. It means that while cells are expensive, the small amount needed results in reduced systems costs and the long-run cost of energy (LCOE) could be around 30 per cent below that of flat panel PV by 2016, according to a report released by IMS Research last week.

The global CPV industry is said to be led by US companies Solar Junction and Amonix, and a 44MW CPV plant is about to be built in South Africa. But Australia has its own CPV technology companies which are competing for global leadership in the area, and has had numerous prototypes installed and operating in the remote areas in northern Australia. Surprisingly, CPV was not included in the recent assessment of 40 energy technologies conducted by the Bureau of Resource and Energy Economics.

Solar Systems, now owned by the listed Silex Systems, has a 600kW pilot plant operating in Victoria, has broken ground on a separate 2MW demonstration plant – a forerunner to a 100MW plant in Mildura, and has also signed agreements to build 1MW demonstration plants in Saudi Arabia and California.

RayGen brings together two people who have played a leading role in CPV – co-founder John Lasich was also a founder of Solar Systems, while Bob Cart was the founder and former CEO and chairman of Californian CPV start-up GreenVolts,

The RayGen technology is based on a similar principle to that of Solar Systems, where the latter is using big dishes to focus the power of the sun on a receiver, RayGen proposes to use heliostats (or mirrors) to direct the sunlight. Cart says this delivers a 50 per cent reduction in the mass versus competing technologies and should give it a manufacturing cost of less than $1 a watt. He says this will translate into an LCOE of $50-$60/MWh.

“I am convinced that is the way to get cost down in solar,” Cart told RenewEconomy in an interview. “Our focus is to develop a technology that will not need a subsidy. So the choice will be, do you want coal, gas or solar? Our driving message is that for solar to be successful and broadly adopted, it needs to be on the same bar as fossil fuel.”

Cart says the company’s first target markets will be in Australia’s off-grid and mining sectors. “There is real opportunity for us to compete in regional areas and reduce the cost of diesel,” he said, noting that Lasich already had experience with this through the series of pilot plants installed in northern Australia with Solar Systems.

The company has recently moved to a factory east of Melbourne where it is working on its system prototypes. Cart says there is an opportunity for Australian manufacturing capabilities – not in the large, relatively inexpensive materials that will make up the bulk of the plant, but in the high-value solar cell modules and the management and control systems.

Cart, who was involved in the Sunshot campaign by the US Department of Energy – which aims to bring solar down to the cost of fossil fuels by the ends of the decade, says the company was going to be based in the US, but Australia was now an attractive proposition. “The opportunity for innovation and solar, the best place in the world is Australia,” he said.

The IMS report predicted that advances in CPV technology would drive down costs by 16 per cent annually, prompting an increase in installations from today’s cumulative total of around 160MW to 3GW by 2016. The authors said that with efficiency records of 34.2 per cent for commercial modules, acceptance of CPV as a utility-scale generation method is predicted to accelerate, even though its up-front costs will be higher than conventional PV.

It predicted that CPV systems are capable of achieving up to 12% lower LCOE compared to PV, but that gap could grow to 30 per cent by 2016, IMS said.

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About the Author

is the founding editor of, an Australian-based website that provides news and analysis on cleantech, carbon, and climate issues. Giles is based in Sydney and is watching the (slow, but quickening) transformation of Australia's energy grid with great interest.

  • realist

    All tech, all environment, no brains, no compassion.

  • realist

    How about let’s be real. taxes on conventional energy have been what has vastly funded the alternative energy research, and the only other reason that there is any viability in alternative fuels is because our government has artificially driven up the cost of conventional fuels. the cost of a gallon of gas is what $1.50 USD, We can make electricity cheaper by burning gasoline fired turbines than by using any of the subsidized forms of energy. Until the alternative energy sources have become competitive without subsidy, or tax breaks, or government investment its just foolishness to start thinking the switch is gonna happen, and putting a tax on poor people in the form of a carbon tax, or cap and trade, I hope their frostbite, and hunger caused by your idiotic new tax schemes to punish them for not wanting to freeze, or spend their food money on a new tax on their heat, or light, well, I hope it rests full y on your karma, and you pay for those sins 1 million times over. think before you speak, fools. old people on fixed incomes will be paying these taxes, you want to steal from the feeble, God have mercy on you, on second thought, maybe he shouldn’t.

    • Bob_Wallace

      It would be easier to read your rant were you to use paragraphs.

      Here’s something for you to chew on – wind and solar are now cheap enough to bring down the cost of electricity. And this will keep getting better.

      Solar, in Germany, is being installed for $2/watt. That would be roughly 8 cents/kWh electricity in the US. Eight cents is a huge bargain compared to what is spent now for peak hour power. Wind, without subsidies, is producing 5 cent electricity.

      In the case of renewables, subsidies have been short term investments which have greatly paid off. OTOH, we’ve been subsidizing fossil fuels for over 100 years and their prices keep increasing.

      The poor folks you worry about will find their utility bills falling. And their health will improve as we pump less fossil fuel emissions into their air.

    • gasoline is not artificially expensive — in fact, it is subsidized! it is cheaper than it should be were all costs to be taken into account.

  • Ronald Brak

    A carbon price (whether a straight tax or emissions trading) is the most economically efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A solar feed in tariff pays people for providing electricity to the grid. While there is overlap in what they do in that they both reduce emissions in places that use fossil fuels to generate electricity, they have clearly different functions and do not and cannot directly substitute for each other.

    I could explain further, but this thread is getting old and so I might be wasting my keyboard tapping.

  • Logan J. Skew

    thanks for sharing..nice blog

    Off Grid Solar Systems

  • Dropping PV, wind, and storage cost are why a carbon tax is so much better than a FIT. With FIT you have to adjust to make sure that people don’t get to good a deal. While carbon tax is a simple sin tax. If PV/wind/storage come down and you can make your money back in a year no big deal, carbon tax does change except to go up since there is no reason for you not to clean up your act. And all this hand ringing over what to do with that money, please. Give part back to each tax payer (same to all) and the rest on energy eff in Government/pubic buildings (best payback funded first).Ok a portion of the first couple years to move time of day pricing into the market. If you want to opt out of a smart meter fine, but you have to pay a higher rate.

    • Don’t agree, a FiT eliminates the market for fossil fuels while a carbon tax just raises the cost for consumers. Plus the regulators are owned/controlled by the regulated and would rapidly find a way to manipulate carbon markets. It’s naive to think otherwise.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Use revenues to subsidize consumer utility bills. No cost increase for customers.

        Hard to manipulate the market if the legislation is well-crafted. If coal plants have to pay a “2 cent” tax on each kWh of electricity they sell that would be hard to circumvent. We already have very good measurement systems in place. Stick in some very expensive fines to make it unprofitable to mess with the system.

        • Yes fines need to be on the order of 10 times the benifit of cheating; plus a bonus fine to all board members and upper management in the company. So that they all have a person stake in preventing cheating.

      • I will agree that “cap and trade” is wide open for manipulation and “grandfathering” of old dirty companies. A carbon tax doen’t give you credits to sell. Just charges you for you negative effect. Between that and cutting support (Gov give aways) to nuclear/coal/oil/gas would make a bigger benifit than FIT anyway. The key is publish the cost for the next 10-20 years and write in to the law that the tax can’t be cut only raised if its revenue drops below a goal amount each year.

    • Michael Ellis

      Carbon tax (not cap & trade) makes much more sense. It’s easy to implement and enforce since it can be collected at the wellhead (oil/gas) , mine entrance (coal), or port of entry (for imported fuels). If if were up to me, the rate would be 100% of the market price of currently available, reliable, verifiable, and scalable carbon sequestration for the carbon content of the fuel. The majority of the revenues should be directly used for sequestration with a small portion going for R&D and relief to low-income consumers.

  • Guest

    Dropping PV, wind, and storage cost are why a carbon tax is so much better than a FIT. With FIT you have to adjust to make sure that people don’t get to good a deal. While carbon tax is a simple sin tax. If PV/wind/storage come down and you can make your money back in a year no big deal, carbon tax does change except to maybe go up since there is no reason for you not to clean up your act. And all this hand ringing over what to do with that money. GIve part back to each tax payer (same to all) and the rest on energy eff in Gov/pubic buildings (best payback funded first).Ok a prtion of the firs couple years to move time of day pricing into the market.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Probably better to make the rebate to consumers proportional to their energy usage. That way a carbon tax would be cost neutral to consumers and more acceptable.

      Taxpayers would benefit because less coal burning would mean a reduction in coal-related health costs.

      • Don’t want someone with a wasteful 10k sq house to get more that an eff 1-2k sqft home. It is a Sin tax, the more energy you use/waste the more it cost you. That or put up your own PV/wind and use what you like.

        • Bob_Wallace

          What you’re suggesting is something different from changing the ratio of fossil fuel to renewable energy on the grid. You’re also trying to cut consumption, which is valuable, but would make it harder to pass.

          There’s even a chance that passing out money equally to all might operate in the opposite direction you intend. The well-off probably wouldn’t cut back, electricity is likely a tiny portion of their monthly spending. Those operating on a very tight budget might work a little less hard to cut their bill.

          • Ok the 2 of us (and many others) agree a carbon tax is a good idea. Yes people get stuck on where the money goes. I don’t think you want to give the money back to biggest energy users. Or they see little reason to change. I want to take away the advantage that old coal plants have. In Germany we see much (most?) of the benefit from wind/solar going to big corp, and not being passed on to people, unless they own the means of production. Yes I want to use part to make public own building more efficient to drive down the cost of government. I would also have to Gov commit to buy a large amount of energy storage when the cost drop below certain levels. Yes you have to build it in the US, use this approach to get mass production.

          • Bob_Wallace

            What’s your goal? To a) reduce the proportion of fossil fuel used or b) to lower the amount of electricity used? Both, IMO, are desirable goals but going after both in a single bill might be quite difficult.

            I think it would be much harder to pass a piece of legislation to change the mix of inputs if the most powerful get hurt. Large corporations are likely to raise a stink if they see their energy costs going up. If a carbon tax is cost neutral for them then they probably won’t complain.
            Furthermore, I’m not sure we need to legislate efficiency for large users. Business these days is very competitive and I would imagine most businesses have staff whose job it is to find ways to cut energy use.

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