CPV: New Applications and Emerging Markets

by Silvia Christel

2010 Technology and Market Analysis


Concentrating Photovoltaics (CPV) continues to generate interest and investment worldwide as a unique solution for large-scale commercial and utility-scale solar power generation. This report, building on research conducted in 2008 by the Prometheus Institute and GTM Research, takes a freshly detailed look at the specific technologies, applications, policies, early adopters and economics of low-, medium-, and high-concentration CPV.

Key facets of the CPV market analyzed in this report include:

  • Detailed understanding of CPV technologies, from optics to new generations of high-efficiency cells to trackers
  • Analysis of all CPV solution technologies, form low to medium to high-concentration PV, and a look at other approaches to CPV
  • An examination of geographical markets, from the current activity in Spain and the U.S., to important emerging demand opportunities such as Northern Africa, the Middle East, Southern Europe and Australia
  • Analysis of the CPV value chain, from component technologies to project developers
  • A unique and original approach to levelized cost of energy analysis for CPV, and an outlook for the CPV market based on LCOE comparisons with CdTe thin-film and Monocystalline Silicon-based PV solutions
  • Full company profiles for all players in the market

Background to the Research

Before 2008, you could probably count the megawatts of CPV devices that had been successfully installed on one hand. Limited mainly be the expense of high-efficiency solar technology, the market languished. It was not until very recently that technical improvements in the core components of the CPV system, such as the introduction of the high-efficiency cell, improved optics, and solar tracking capabilities, allowed the first significant increase in concentration. The key cost drivers in this equation are concentration and efficiency. Low-concentration concepts use silicon or other low-cost cells. High-concentration systems, on the other hand, may use more expensive multi-junction semiconductor cell material, which degrades more slowly when ambient temperatures rise and has more than twice the (cell) efficiency of traditional silicon-based PV cells, approaching 40 percent efficiency.

This reports classifies all types of CPV technology near commercialization and analyzes the market potential of each. At the current juncture, the most important challenge for CPV is to be deployed at the right scale with the best system design in the most suitable location. It is important to look at the whole system and to consider all the interconnections between the components in order to create an optimized system.

Dozens of new companies are springing up seemingly overnight, with almost 60 percent of the CPV developers now in business formed since 2005. Geographically, more than 50 percent of the CPV companies currently in operation are located in the United States (primarily in California), followed by Europe, with Spain being the leading country.

Recently, the total installed capacity of high-concentrated PV systems jumped to more than 19 MW. Nevertheless, this is still a very small number considering the fact that CPV technologies are unlikely to achieve low cost when manufacturing volume is small and only very few companies have installations in place. Today, almost 90 percent of HCPV installations are located in Spain, mainly due to excellent support programs. Other locations such as the U.S. and Australia have lagged in terms of installed capacity of HCPV, but this will likely change with the U.S. market having the potential to overtake Spain in the near future, taking the recent project announcements of most HCPV developers into account. Provided that CPV could become cost-competitive against flat-plate PV, CPV could become a viable alternative to flat-plate PV in these main markets in the near future. In the near-term, we expect that these primary markets, where policies and subsidies are in place that directly benefit CPV, to be the most active markets. However, given the results of our LCOE analysis, we expect emerging markets like the Middle East and North Africa with high heat, high DNI, and relatively undeveloped solar installations will emerge as the most favorable markets for CPV installations in the long term.

In coming to this report, GTM Research used its original research conducted with the Prometheus Institute in 2008 as a basis, and enlisted Silvia Christel, our analyst based in Munich, and Daniel Englander, our senior energy analyst, to provide the most comprehensive look at the market, bringing experience and expertise in solar market development, solar project finance, LCOE modeling and technology assessment. Conducted via direct interviews with technology developers, project developers, the financial community and policy makers, this report is the most comprehensive look at the fortunes of the CPV market to date.

Silvia Christel Consulting Analyst, European Markets

Silvia joined Greentech Media in 2008 to focus on the European renewable energy market's development with specific emphasis on the solar industry. She has marketing experience from her work with a non-profit environmental organization located in Munich. Silvia has a degree in economic geography from the University of Munich.

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