Clean Power

Published on December 13th, 2013 | by Joshua S Hill


Global CPV Setting Up For Explosive Growth

December 13th, 2013 by  

The solar market has been dominated by traditional rooftop and utility-scale photovoltaic systems for years now, systems reliant solely upon solar panels to be situated in stationary positions to capture the most sunlight possible. However, according to information company IHS, the solar industry may soon see a new technological-player develop prominence over the rest of this decade.

According to IHS, “the global market for concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) systems is entering a phase of explosive growth” — growth that IHS predicts will see installations boom by 750% by the end of 2020.

Concentrated PV is a technology which uses optics to focus sunlight onto photovoltaic cells in an effort to increase the intensity and reliability of the sunlight hitting the solar panels. This means that fewer panels are required to generate electricity, because the same amount of sunlight can be focused into a smaller area, reducing the need to build larger farms.

IHS believe that CPV installations are set to rise to 1,362 MW in 2020, up from their current number of 160 MW. These figures are part of a new report released by IHS — “Concentrated PV (CPV) Report – 2013”.


A Solar Systems CPV installation in Australia.
Image Credit: Solar Systems

The primary cost which has prohibited the widespread development of CVP solar technology is found in the need to employ lenses or mirrors. However, IHS believe this situation is already changing thanks to “advancements in CPV technology”.

“What is happening in today’s CPV market is very similar to that of the overall PV space in 2007, beset by high costs and an uncertain outlook,” said Karl Melkonyan, photovoltaic analyst at IHS. “However, the CPV market in 2013 is on the verge of a breakthrough in growth. Costs for CPV have dropped dramatically during 2013 and are expected to continue to fall in the coming years. Furthermore, when viewed from the perspective of lifetime cost, CPV becomes more competitive with conventional PV in large ground-mount systems in some regions.”

Installation prices have already decreased to $2.62 per watt in 2013, down 25.8 percent from $3.54 per watt in 2012, a figure that is expected to continue to decline over the coming decade as the manufacturing process continues down the learning curve. IHS forecasts that prices will fall to $1.59 by the end of 2017.

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  • JamesWimberley

    Isn’t part of the idea that because you are only using a small area of cells, you can afford to use high-efficiency multi-junction ones which are too expensive for direct use on flat panels? With higher efficiency, you can reduce the total land take.

    A learning curve doesn’t save CPV. It has to be steeper than the one for flat-panel silicon, which remains to be seen.

    • Omega Centauri

      Because of 2 axis tracking it becomes important to avoid shading issues, so the fraction of the sunlight actually intercepted by the system isn’t so high. If you went with a small fixed tilt, you could get 90% or so ground coverage without shading issues. So CPV -and any system that uses tracking to increase output per area of PV will leave a lot of space between panels.

      • dynamo.joe

        I don’t think that is really true. You want to avoid shading, but that doesn’t mean you cant always get up to your 90% number.

        To look at the extreme, lets take dawn as an example. At dawn only the easternmost line of concentrators can gather sunlight, but they are gathering all or the sunlight and the other concentrators aren’t tracking. Some short time later the westernmost concentrators emerge from the shadow of the easternmost and begin tracking.

        The sun continues to rise and more western concentrators emerge into the sunlight until the entire field of concentrators is tracking. In theory you could always collect that 90% of incident sunlight, though economics may dictate some smaller %.

        • Omega Centauri

          Its always the economics calling the shots. Thats why I make the assumption that avoidance of virtually any shading trumps land use.

  • Matt

    “reducing the need to build larger farms” I don’t know that the area of the farm decreases that much. Its the area of PV cells that is smaller, you have mirrors instead. That are mounted on tracking systems.

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