Concentrating PV in 2012

Concentrated Photovoltaic (CPV) technology as an innovative solar energy production methodology has been around since 1970, ever since the US government began to research this technology at the Sandia National Labs, Livermore, California. Traditionally, flat panel systems are a more popular method of harnessing solar energy. CPV technology has been a boon to geographies where real estate becomes a limitation.

2012 however will prove to be a tough year for CPV technology. The continuous fall in prices of crystalline PV module has driven CPV developers to diversify in emerging markets and CPV is making a noticeable presence in Mexico, India and Chile as well. Like in 2011, CPV will have a tough market situation in 2012 as well; since traditional CPV markets are not only saturated but crystalline PV is intense competition as well.

CPV vs. PV costing divide dwindles

CPV technology attempts to concentrate greater amounts of sunlight, than normal incidence through use of Acrylic Fresnel lens and variants so that there is an increase in solar energy production, while heat sinks cool off the overheated solar cells. Additionally, CPV proves is low-cost production as on an average it costs $1USD/Watt in comparison to $3-5 USD/Watt only for the module. However, senior energy analysts at GTM Research reveal that CPV will find it even tougher this year than 2010 when competing head-to-head with flat-plate PV since these prices have dropped from $3.50 a watt in 2010 to $2.50 watt in 2011 and are likely to fall further in 2012.

Hence, this has led to CPV technologists moving to markets, where CPV offers a reasonable market return. Heading this list is Italy, where ‘CPV feed-in tariff are exciting.’ Since solar development in Italy is moving away from ‘ground-mounted installations,’ CPV provides useful infill, generating rich feed-in tariffs from small areas.

CPV in 2012

GTM Research analysts believe that CPV in 2012 will depend entirely on the technology emerging markets will adopt to generate solar electricity. Industry experts believe that there is a growing inertia towards adopting CSP in several large-scale productions across African countries – Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, since industrial companies are moving into solar production and CSP technology is very similar to the type of generation they are already competent with.

However, what is a worrying cause for CPV in 2012 is the growth of CSP as a CPV alternative as it generates two or three times better employment opportunities almost on par with flat-plate PV.

Prior a lead analyst with GTM Research says that, again CPV too stands a good chance of breaking even over CSP, if large emerging markets can provide big contracts, provided that scale is sufficient, CPV too would be effective.

This has also led to service providers adding CPV as an additional technology- service, given that there could be role for hybrid, multiple solar energy technologies.

Take Away

Concentrated Photovoltaic technology can meet the challenges in the year ahead if, it can bag big contracts in emerging markets. CPV would also have to grapple with a waning interest in solar energy in some of its traditional markets as well.

By alpha