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News Article

SolFocus aiming for 100MW CPV ramp

The high-concentration solar systems company will need hundreds of thousands of III-V solar cells to fulfil its ambitious plans for delivering photovoltaic power.

by Michael Hatcher in San Francisco
SolFocus, the Californian company that specializes in concentrator photovoltaics (CPV) systems, will lead the demand for III-V solar cells as it scales up system production over the next three years.

Speaking at the InterSolar US conference and exhibition co-located with Semicon West in San Francisco, co-founder Ty Jagerson outlined the company s ambitious plans to install systems capable of producing up to 100 MW of grid-connected power in 2010.

If reached, that figure would represent a huge expansion on the expected 2008 deployment of 1 MW, while SolFocus is confident that it will install 20 MW during 2009.

Each of SolFocus CPV panels includes 16 individual power modules, which each in turn focuses light onto a single III-V chip at a concentration of 500 times.

Those power modules produce a maximum output of 214 W, so SolFocus will require hundreds of thousands of the cells to meet its ramp-up goals.

The company told compoundsemiconductor.net that it is capacity-limited this year, although this is not due to any constraints on the supply of III-V cells.

SolFocus has already installed a system at the ISFOC test site in central Spain, and is confident that this installation will help to prove that CPV is a reliable way to produce energy that can be fed into electrical grids in sunny parts of the world.

The firm buys its cells from both Emcore and Spectrolab and, contrary to some reports, it says that there is little difference between the two suppliers when it comes to cell cost.

With improvements to both its optical design and the efficiency of the III-V cells, SolFocus says that the conversion efficiency of its panels should rise from 18 per cent to 25 per cent in the next year, with overall system efficiency pegged at around 2 per cent lower than the figure for panels.

The InterSolar US show at which Jagerson was speaking has been co-located with Semicon West for the first time this year, indicating the increasing convergence between the photovoltaics and mainstream semiconductor industries.

Michael Hatcher is editor of compoundsemiconductor.net.

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