The most efficient form of solar power, concentrated photovoltaic (CPV), is the least commonly used right now. Last year the U.S. alone saw multiple gigawatts PV installed. The whole world is likely to have about 357.9 megawatts of CPV installed in 2014. That could change, according to a new report from GlobalData, which anticipates that the CPV industry will grow through the end of the decade as the technologies behind it mature.
A few years ago it was anticipated that the industry would grow quicker. In fact, as PV arrays got larger hitting the 50 megawatt then ballooning to more than 100 megawatts in size in a short period, CPV arrays by some companies were starting to follow the trend, like the 30 megawatt Alamosa Generating plant in Colorado that uses Amonix’ CPV systems. Those system consist of giant trackers mounted on pedestals that are 70 feet wide by 50 feet high and consist of 7,560 Fresnel lens that each focus the sunlight about 500 times onto a small multi-junction PV cell.
Likewise Suncore’s 50 megawatt CPV power plant in Golmud, China—the largest CPV plant in the world came online in 2013. But both of these are singular examples of where the technology is headed and there aren’t, at this moment, many other large-scale CPV facilities planned. At this point China and the US dominate the global CPV market. The U.S. has 33.3 percent of the world’s share of CPV and China 35.4 percent.
However, by the end of the decade CPV is expected rebound, according to a new report out today (March 18) from GlobalData. The report anticipates that while CPV won’t overtake PV anytime soon by 2020 it should reach 1,044 megawatts.
“The CPV market is at a nascent stage, especially with the technology evolving and achieving new heights of efficiency improvement,” said GlobalData Analyst Swati Singh. “Companies that have been successful in operating CPV prototype systems in pilot sites are now progressing towards multi-MW CPV projects.”
Things were looking up for the industry with a number of companies entering the market and then, as silicon PV prices plummeted, CPV couldn’t keep up with the price drops. That’s largely because because the industry is still in earlier stages of commercial development than PV or even concentrated solar power (CSP), like trough and solar tower installations.
The industry faces other challenges as well, according to Singh. “A further concern in the CPV industry is the reliability and performance of the systems,” he said. “Although significant efforts have been made to develop International Electrotechnical Commission standards for CPV-system certification.”
CPV systems can offer advantage over conventional PV arrays, too. Since the PV cells are only part of the system, they can be swapped out as cells become worn out or better, more efficient PV cells become available and while silicon PV cells are around 24 percent efficient at best, multi-junction PV cells are already more than 43 percent efficient at converting sunlight into solar power.