High Concentrating Photovoltaics, traditionally a low-performing arm of the solar industry, is expected to gain major ground in changing market conditions.
Lux Research, a research and analyses firm specializing in emerging technologies, recently released a report that suggests HCPV will grow to a $1.6 billion industry by 2017.
High-concentrating photovoltaics have had little success in subsidized markets with low direct sunlight, like Germany, said Lux analyst Ed Cahill.
But as those markets become less dominant and demand increases emerging markets that aren’t offering the same subsidies, HCPV will gain popularity, Cahill said.
“In unsubsidized markets, the lowest cost will win out,” he said.
HCPV technology uses lenses to concentrate the sun’s rays onto highly efficient solar cells. The difference between HCPV and simple concentrating photovoltaics is the magnification factor, Cahill said. HCPV can multiple the intensity of the sun’s rays by 500 to 1,300 times.
One reason the technology hasn’t caught on before is that areas like Germany have had the most active solar markets and those areas don’t have a lot of direct sunlight.
“HCPV is only relevant in high direct normal irradiance environments,” Cahill said. “It only focuses direct sunlight onto the solar cells.”
Ambient or diffused light in cloudy environments is lost on HCPV cells. But Cahill said some of the fastest growing markets for solar are in countries like Suadia Arabia and India, which have high DNI numbers.
The Lux report estimates that HCPV will grow 31 percent by 2017 and gain cost parity with single-axis tracking multi-crystalline silicon, closing a 33 percent price gap.
Cahill added that advances in solar cell efficiency will make the technology more viable as well and he expects cell efficiency to grow to 50 percent within the next 10 years.
There are a few companies to watch in the HCPV market, Cahill said.
“Currently, Amonix is the industry leader with the most installations on the ground,” he said. “But they expanded too fast and have had to cut back, which opens the door for emerging players like Soitec, SunCore and SolFocus.”