In the spectacularly high-growth $20 billion dollar global solar market, CPV is a zero billion-dollar market segment with only a few megawatts deployed, stuck in the middle between the rapidly commodifying silicon solar market and the well-financed high-output concentrated solar thermal market. Concentrated Photovoltaic Technology (CPV) has received more than $350 million in venture capital funding since 2005, tens of millions from the Department of Energy (DOE), and tens of millions from public markets to fund development of this promising solar technology. But to a great extent, CPV has been overshadowed by other solar sciences, notably concentrated solar power (CST or solar thermal), thin-film solar and wafered silicon (the current dominant technology). The fundamental concept behind CPV is the use of a very high-efficiency solar cell that is much smaller than the optical collection area. The value is that “cheap??? glass and metal replace expensive (?) and capacity-constrained (?) silicon and provide a super high-efficiency module. GaAs triple-junction III/V solar cells (with >35% efficiency) result in a higher power density, a more efficient use of land, and a potentially lower Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE). CPV requires high DNI (Direct Normal Irradiation) and is therefore limited in geographical range (SW USA, Spain, Australia, North Africa and the Levant). CPV does not have a storage option like CST but does not require water resources like CST. The big questions here are:
  • Can CPV catch up with CST, silicon, and thin-film’s momentum?
  • Are risk-adverse big-project financiers willing to back CPV with the same gusto they’ve backed CST and silicon?
Recently, Greentech Media in cooperation with The Prometheus Institute released one of the first and easily the most extensive report on Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). The report includes the following table: The table suggests that CPV has the potential to be a 6GW market by 2020. It also suggests that the sweet spot for CPV is squeezed somewhere between smaller-scale installations utilizing silicon and thin-film PV and the massive utility-scale Concentrated Solar Thermal (CST) installations often used in tandem with thermal storage technologies. I’ve compiled a list of public and private players in the CPV market (It’s a long list but probably not exhaustive). Many of these firms have their own slightly different spin on CPV. In Part One, I’ll list the high-concentration system vendors (HCPV).  Part Two, which will arrive later this week, will cover low-concentration systems (LCPV), III-V semiconductors and miscellaneous stuff.  If I’ve missed a firm – let me know at HCPV Systems Abengoa Solar: Abengoa designs and deploys CPV systems. Here is the company’s view on land usage requirements for CPV. Amonix: An early entrant in the terrestrial CPV world, privately-held Amonix uses a 2-axis HCPV system using silicon, not triple junction cells. They make the argument for silicon in this white paper. According to the company’s Website, they’ve manufactured and installed more than 570 kW of their fifth-generation Amonix systems over the last six years. Arima: Here is a datasheet for a 120W module from this Taiwan-based HCPV lens / pedestal systems builder. Concentrix: A Fraunhofer Institute spin-off with investment from Good Energies, Concentrix has installed about 100kW of CPV systems and is now building a 25MW production line. Concentracion Solar La Mancha: Lens / pedestal based HCPV systems from Spain. Cool Earth Solar: Unique mylar balloon-based concentrator system received $21 million in funding in early 2008 from an unnamed PE investor. At a recent conference, CEO Rob Lamkin said that they were currently using triple junction cells but silicon would eventually be used. Emcore: Emcore is a publicly traded, vertically integrated supplier of III/V solar cells as well as CPV systems and is contemplating an IPO for its solar unit in 2009.   Recent earnings calls have revealed that some of Emcore’s orders are less than firm. Emcore cancelled all production slots relating to its supply agreement with customer Green and Gold Energy (GGE), after the Australian firm revealed that it was negotiating the sale of its business. Despite the GGE debacle, Emcore’s CEO Hong Hou says that demand for its CPV components and cells is mounting up. Hou said that Emcore is working on pilot projects in Australia, Canada, Korea, Portugal Spain, the UAE, and the U.S. In Q2 ‘08 Emcore:
  • was awarded a $4.6 million follow-on order for solar cell receiver assemblies from Concentration Solar la Mancha of Spain.
  • agreed to supply CPV systems to XinAo Group in China, one of China’s largest energy companies.
  • entered into a $28 million supply agreement with South Korea’s ES System for solar cell receivers.
Energy Innovations: EI’s low-profile “Sunflower??? is a 2 axis tracking HCPV system.  EI’s VC investors include MDV and Idealab. EnFocus Engineering: Lens based, low-profile III/V system for rooftop applications.  EnFocus recently received a $3M Solar America Initiative award from the DOE. Entech Solar (a World Water and Solar Technologies company): Fresnel Lens and pedestal CPV systems using silicon. ES System: HCPV systems from Korea with cells from Emcore. GreenVolts: VC-funded GreenVolts has a 2MW PG&E contract for their low-profile CPV system to be deployed near Tracy, Calif. The 2MW system is hailed as one of the largest CPV systems undertaken. Guascor Foton: Spanish-based large-scale HCPV. Isofoton: Targeting 10MW of CPV assembly capacity for their lens / pedestal systems in Malaga, Spain. The company estimates that 10MW = 15,000 wafers = 50 million solar cells. Morgan Solar: Angel funded Morgan Solar uses “Light Guide Solar Optics??? (LGSO) to direct sunlight to the edges of an optical element. OPEL International: Listed on the TSX exchange and located in Connecticut, U.S., OPEL builds lens / pedestal CPV systems based on Spectrolab solar cells. OPEL’s technology was developed with the University of Connecticut and Canada’s NRC. Pyron Solar: TJ-based 2-axis HCPV with arrays floating in water. First round funding from New Energies Invest in 2007. Here’s their brochure. Sharp: 700X lens / pedestal system sol3g: Abengoa-invested, Spanish-based HCPV pedestal systems with solar cells purchased from Azur Space. Power density ~28 Wp/m2. Solar Systems: Privately owned Australian firm with a $100M investment currently using a dish-based CPV system but moving towards power tower (?).   Solar Systems placed a large (350 MW 10 year) order with Spectrolab for III/V cells. SolFocus: One of the first VC-funded CPV startups with technology licensed from PARC, they acquired a glass manufacturer and a tracker company to control their supply chain and is in the process of raising another funding round.   They have completed the first 200kW phase of a 3MW system in Spain operated by ISFOC. At one point Spectrolab was their designed-in supplier of solar cells but that might have changed as SolFocus attempts to liberate itself from the III/V solar cell oligopoly. Soliant: VC-funded by Rockport, Nth Power, Trinity, Rincon, this firm started life as a low-concentration company, now targeting standard panel footprint 500X HCPV for rooftop applications. No press releases from them in 2008. Sunrgi: Hollywood, Calif.-based private company claiming 2000X concentration with proprietary heat sinking and cooling technology. Zytech: Private firm headquartered in Spain manufacturing LCPV and HCPV. Click here to continue to Part Two: Low-Concetration Photovoltaics.