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Analyst expects 50MW of concentrated PV in 2011

14 Mar 2011

As Soitec announces plans for the largest CPV project yet seen, Strategy Analytics predicts compound annual growth of 174% through 2015.

Market analysts at the research consultancy Strategy Analytics are predicting very strong growth of the emerging market for concentrated photovoltaics (CPV) – starting with the market tripling in size this year.

In a new report being presented at the Solartech World 2011 conference in Gwangju, Korea, this week, Strategy Analytics will say that installed CPV capacity will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 174% through 2015.

For 2010, Asif Anwar from the firm says that installations were 16.3 MW, which represented only about 0.1% of the total PV market. But the technology, which relies on optical concentration and expensive triple-junction cells and is highly suited to hot, sunny locations, will grow quickly in 2011. Anwar predicts 50 MW of newly installed CPV capacity this year.

Although that forecast is an aggressive one, 50 MW would still represent much less than 1% of the wider PV market. However, if the CAGR prediction turns out to be an accurate one, then CPV technology could be breaking the 1 GW barrier in 2014 or 2015.

“Amonix has had the early lead in terms of the largest MW-scale deployments, but we see strong competition from Soitec moving forwards,” Anwar told optics.org. Another analyst firm, Lux Research, predicted last year that Amonix’ early success in CPV made it a likely candidate for an initial public offering (IPO) of stock in the near future. The company is building a large production facility in Nevada, US, that is due to begin operations soon, and which should eventually have an annual production capacity of 150 MW.

Meanwhile, Soitec’s CPV-focused subsidiary Concentrix Solar said last week that it had agreed a deal to provide concentrator systems for a 150 MW solar power station in Imperial Valley, southern California. That project is going to be dependent on a loan guarantee from the US Department of Energy, but if it does go ahead then Concentrix will also build a 200 MW production facility near San Diego.

Global growth
It isn’t just the US that is expected to play a major role in CPV market development. “In 2010, some significant projects came into play in the southwestern United States, the Middle East, Africa and Australia,” noted Eric Higham, the director of Strategy Analytics’ GaAs service. “CPV installations will grow at a CAGR of 174% to account for just over 4% of global solar installations in 2015.”

Examples of installations in the Middle East include a SolFocus system that is expected to deliver 300 MWh of energy per year, while Concentrix already has smaller-scale installations in Jordan and Egypt that it says operate at an average solar-to-grid conversion efficiency of 21%. Concentrix also sees the potential for large-scale projects in South Africa.

The progress being made, particularly the decision to build a utility-scale CPV facility in the US, suggests that the technology is now being viewed as sufficiently reliable and “bankable” for wider deployment.

“The scale of deployment points to an acceptance that CPV technologies are mature enough for the terrestrial PV market, and this is now being validated through certification processes,” Anwar added. “Having said this, there remain challenges for CPV to standardize or align with more mainstream PV technologies in terms of rating methods and the use of modeling tools.”

Much of the recent activity in the sector has centered around the development of “champion” triple-junction cells by companies looking to challenge the current dominance of suppliers Spectrolab, Emcore and AZUR Space. These include both start-ups such as Canada-based Cyrium Technologies and much larger entities such as the optoelectronics giant JDSU and the handset component maker RF Micro Devices (RFMD).

Both JDSU and RFMD have a wealth of expertise in producing complex semiconductor structures in extremely large volumes, and Anwar sees the possibility of market disruption:

“The work that RFMD is doing could be a potential disruptor since they appear to be basing their technology around existing expertise and therefore have considerable infrastructure already in place to ramp up quickly when the time is right,” he noted. “I expect that for the other players, a major challenge moving forwards will be making the capital investment needed to meet continuing demand.”

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