The worldwide concentrator photovoltaic market size is predicted to exhibit about 14% CAGR from 2016 to 2024 (forecast period). It would reach a size of nearly USD 2.1 billion by 2024. The Concentrator Photovoltaic Market generated approximately USD 790 million in 2014.
Adoption of CPV technology across multiple applications & end-users is likely to raise industry demand in the next eight years. Installation of low concentration photovoltaic (LCPV) systems and high concentration photovoltaic (HCPV) systems are predicted to exhibit good returns in the near future.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute of Solar Energy have developed a mini-module which converts about 43.4% of the solar energy into electricity. The mini-module consists of four junction solar cells. This could be a new trend in the global Concentrator Photovoltaic Market. Commercial players are working with ARPA-E (Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy) to develop microlenses that track sunlight at the cellular level & boost their concentration ratio.
‘Panasonic,’ ‘Sharp,’ and ‘Semprius, Inc.’ have been funded by ‘ARPA-E’ to develop micro CPV systems at high-sunlight locations. Additionally, Semprius has received USD 2.9 million to work on a new system which is expected to integrate two types of solar cells with six junctions. CPV efficiency & reliability combined with price wars should benefit the overall market.
Shortage of lands with direct normal irradiance (DNI) poses a challenge to the industry. Withdrawal of governmental subsidies may negatively affect the Concentrator Photovoltaic Market. But nations with ‘power shortage’ are signing power purchase agreements with local manufacturers to spur industry growth.
CPV junctions need curved mirrors to direct sunlight onto solar cells. These solar cells are available in groups of 3, 4, or 5 and called multi-junction cells. They are designed to receive light of a specific wavelength to augment the conversion rate of light into electricity. The resulting set-up enables the generation of more electricity as compared to solar panels. Rising adoption of optics has raised the installation costs of these systems. But future consumers will opt for CPV systems as they guarantee good returns.
The worldwide concentrator photovoltaic market is split according to concentration levels, technologies, applications, and regions. High and low constitute the concentration levels. Wider HCPV installations and proliferation of the technology can bring down the installation costs.
HCPV accounted for over 90% shares with respect to demand in 2014. It should enjoy better growth than its counterparts (LCPVs) in the next eight years. LCPV systems only use crystalline-silicon (c-Si) cells. Refractors and reflectors are the technologies. Refractors are sub-divided into Fresnel lens and luminescent concentrators. Reflectors are fragmented on the basis of reflectors and parabolic mirrors.
Fresnel lenses are made in circular shapes to provide high concentration ratio. They are made in cylindrical shapes to provide low concentration ratio. Fresnel lenses are adopted in multi-junction PV cells to maximize their efficiency. Luminescent concentrators refract light using a luminescent film & redirect it towards the photovoltaic material.
Reflectors are used by LCPV systems to direct sunlight towards solar cells. They are mirrors made out of silicon. Their second internal mirror decreases reflection losses. Sevilla Photovoltaic power plant is the largest LCPV plant worldwide, situated in Spain. It has a storage capacity of 1.2 MW and can generate 2.1 GWh (gigawatt hours) annually. Parabolic mirrors work as a team wherein one mirror acts as a collector & reflector.
Applications encompass commercial, utility scale, and others. Commercial would be the fastest growing segment due to power-demand from households in Vietnam, South Korea, India, and China. Utility-scale CPV plants can accumulate solar energy and sell it to wholesale buyers. They provide electricity at fixed price during peak hours. This may spur industry growth.
In view of regions, the market has segments in Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East & Africa (the MEA), and North America. China and Southeast Asia are estimated to reign till 2024. Both the regions accounted for over 90 MW (megawatt) of consumption in 2015. Governmental renewable targets, reduction technological costs, and financial incentives drive CPV adoption in the regions. They are followed by South Europe, the U.S., and Central America.
Combined installations of Southern Europe, the U.S., and Central America contributed around 110 MW the same year. Hindrances in power projects by ‘Tenaska Solar’ in the U.S. & several others should account for weakening regional demand. Europe reigned the market in 2014, Spain being the largest supporter of CPVs.
High ‘Direct Normal Irradiance’ received by Spain has led many national industry players to invest in CPVs. Spain accounted for over 70% of the global base in 2014. The photovoltaic ‘feed-in-tariff’ program in Italy and high DNI in Western regions attract industry players.
Some key players in the worldwide concentrator photovoltaic market are Zytech Solar, Ravano Green Power, SunPower Corporation, Amonix, Inc., and Morgan Solar. Mergers & acquisitions and collaborations are frequently employed by them to cater to various industries & regions.
Industry players acquire regional suppliers to widen the reach of their operations and focus on developing regions to attain industry traction. Morgan Solar, a prominent CPV manufacturer in Canada, has partnered with Enbridge to build a solar plant in Alberta. The plant will have 40, 000 solar panels with a capacity of 10 MW. This has come in light of the Canadian firm developing a CAN $20 carbon tax starting early 2017. The project is expected to boost this company’s annual capacity to 100 MW.
‘Sumitomo Electric Industries’ has recently constructed a 1 MW CPV plant for Morocco. This should allow the company to extend its reach globally. The global market has great potential for reducing the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE). It can expand further, provided CPV installations continue till 2030. CPV systems are offered for a range of USD 740-1164 per kWp (kilowatt peak). Increase in the efficiency of 3 & 4 multi-junction solar cells could hold the key to reducing the LCOE.
These solar cells are usually made from indium, germanium, and gallium. Companies with the potential to mass-produce the said cells are Azur Space Solar Power GmbH, Epistar Corp., and SolAero Technologies Corp.
Research Support Specialist, USA