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Soitec to leave solar energy business

Is the sun setting on the concentrator PV industry?

French company Soitec, known for its silicon-on-insulator SOI technology, is leaving the concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) energy business to re-focus on electronics. 

In its recent financial results, the company says it is: "combining significant restructuring measures going forward and will assess most appropriate scenario to extract value from its solar related assets in compliance with its obligations towards all solar stakeholders".

Soitec's intended exit from the market suggests that the efficiency advantages of CPV technology may now be outweighed by the low costs of silicon-based solar technologies and competing thin film solar technologies looking to replace silicon. CPV had only 0.25 percent global market share of the 40 gigawatts of PV being installed in 2014. 

Soitec's CPV technology uses Fresnel lenses to concentrate sunlight 500 times and focus it onto small, highly efficient III-V-based multi-junction solar cells. Using this technology it has achieved a module efficiency of 31.8 percent, almost twice as high as the efficiency of conventional silicon photovoltaic modules. 

The company has CPV installations based on this technology in 14 countries, including a 44-megawatt project in Touws River, South Africa under development.

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