CPV technology looking good as long as cost reduction goals achieved, says GTM Research


The cost competitive position of concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) technologies, especially since polysilicon prices have continued to fall from the heights of 2008, have constrained more widespread adoption. However, a new detailed report from GTM Research highlights a brighter future for the sector should CPV companies achieve their cost reduction roadmaps. In particular, the installed cost of CPV systems need to be reduced by more than 30% over the next four years for CPV installations to reach a healthy 1GW per annum rate by 2015.
“Developers choosing a solar technology for a large power plant focus on two factors: cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh), and bankability,” noted Brett Prior, the report’s coauthor and senior analyst at GTM Research. “CPV’s promise has been a lower cost/kWh, but it has been hamstrung by a lack of bankability, as the technology’s track record is much shorter and its performance warranties were not backed by strong corporate parents.” 
The report, entitled “Concentrating Photovoltaics 2011: Technology, Costs and Markets,” highlights that there are three CPV companies (Amonix, Soitec Solar [the former Concentrix], and SolFocus) leading the CPV market for installations by accounting for 96% of global projects in operation, construction, or development (with signed power purchase agreements). 
However, new and existing entrants are gaining traction at a much-faster pace, supporting arguments that competitive cost structures are improving, despite limited manufacturing scale, and proving that projects can be secured, as recent announcements support.
“These relationships will be key in generating additional demand for CPV projects,” added Prior. “They bring credibility to the technology, and will help future plants to secure project finance from the major banks.” 
However, both conventional C-Si and thin-film technologies dominate the PV market, as the CPV installed base is at only 28MW globally, compared to 33GW of total cumulative installations, according to the report. 
A key area where costs could be reduced is in improving cell efficiencies; a number of companies have set new efficiency records, primarily with triple-junction cell technologies. 
Total system costs should also get a boost as more projects get built and a steeper cost reduction learning curve gains traction.

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