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HCPV solar market to balloon to $1.6 billion in 2017

With III-V compound semiconductor technology at the forefront in terms of efficiency, a steady roadmap to 45% efficiency in five years and 50% efficiency in 10 years could be on the cards

High-concentrating photovoltaics (HCPV) is a decades-old technology which taps more of the sun’s energy than other solar methods.

This technology is poised to finally hit its stride, with a 31% compound annual growth rate until 2017, according to a Lux Research report.

The study, “Putting High-Concentrating Photovoltaics into Focus,” says that driven by emerging markets with high solar resources, the market for HCPV will grow to 697 MW in 2017. In doing so, it will create a system market worth $1.6 billion and a module market worth $700 million, reaching a system price of $2.33/W.

“HCPV has had very little success installing commercial systems to date. However, as markets shift due to subsidy cuts from distributed installations in low-DNI (direct normal irradiance) environments such as Germany, to large installations in high-DNI environments such as India, expect HCPV to grow at a faster rate than competing technologies,” says Ed Cahill, Lux Research Associate and the lead author of the report.

Lux Research analysts evaluated the emerging solar landscape and the prospects for HCPV, which uses optics such as lenses to concentrate a large amount of sunlight onto a small area of ultra high efficiency photovoltaic cells.

Funding is one of the keys to success. Well-funded companies that expand intelligently will drive the HCPV market. For example, III-V multijunction pioneer Amonix expanded too soon and too fast and has had to make cut backs. As the company is struggling, it has left the door open for emerging players like Soitec, SunCore, and SolFocus.

Developers are also in a race to build the most efficient solar cell. With Solar Junction’s record-breaking 43.5% efficient cell and Spectrolab and Emcore scrambling to develop inverted metamorphic cells, the competition to manufacture the most efficient solar cell is heating up. A steady roadmap to 45% efficiency in five years and 50% efficiency in 10 years is feasible says Lux.

Also, HCPV costs are coming down. HCPV systems will turn cost competitive with single-axis-tracked mc-Si (multi-crystalline silicon) in 2017, closing a 33% and 20% gap with fixed and tracked mc-Si systems, respectively. It also will gain cost parity with mc-Si for high-DNI, utility-scale projects in 2018. The cuts will come through lower shipping and labour costs, besides economies of scale.
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