+44 (0)24 7671 8970
More publications     •     Advertise with us     •     Contact us
News Article

III-V or silicon for solar?

Costs or efficiency - can there be a middle ground

Yole Développement’s "High-Concentration Photovoltaics Business and Technology Update" report, says the key factors to improve the bankability of HCPV installation projects and a new analysis to guide strategic business decisions are related to this technology.

This is not new - III-V solar cell efficiency is far better than silicon and other technologies although it may be more expensive.

Yole has updated its 2012 edition market data for wafers, epiwafers and installation,costs of HCPV (High-Concentration Photovoltaics) modules and systems.

The company says that since March 2013, approximately 120 HCPV installations have been installed throughout the world, accounting for a total capacity of about 130 MW. This iestimate is approximately a thousandth of the total installations of flat-plate PV, represented mainly by crystalline silicon.

The main advantage of HCPV over flat-plate PV is high efficiency - surpassing 40 percent (at cell level), and reaching about 30 percent at module level.

This efficiency level is not achievable by conventional PV technologies. Yole details in its report that the high efficiency of HCPV systems will be the key driver for HCPV in the future.

The HCPV cell efficiency must be significantly increased (without increasing manufacturing costs too much) in order to increase the differentiation between HCPV and its strong competitor, conventional flatplate PV, and to reduce the system costs.

The high system efficiency, together with high electricity production (kWh/kW installed), makes HCPV Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE) competitive with that of fossil-fuelled power plants in some sunny locations.

Most technology challenges identified early, at the beginning of HCPV development, have been resolved already. However, today’s relatively weak HCPV market development is related not only to the technology issues, but also to the lack of financing and low interest among potential customers.

To speed up the HCPV market growth, the bankability of HCPV projects must be improved at all levels, including technology development and testing, and minimising the uncertainty about the solar resources at the future installation site, etc.

This Yole report deals with the factors that can improve the bankability of HCPV installation projects and help the HCPV market to grow. Based on future technological achievements and improved bankability, two scenarios - conservative and optimistic - are proposed for the 2013-2020 HCPV market evolution.

As the HCPV market is very restricted, there is not much place for less-competitive players. Several companies have recently stopped or reduced their HCPV activity due to either strong competition or losing interest in a small and low-margin market such as HCPV is today.

The leaders are not yet established, and new companies with innovative technology or business models may take a lead in the future.

As shown in Yole's report, with a boisterous demand, there will be an increasing trend for vertical integration in the near future. Although more vertical integration is associated with a higher business risk, it enables better control of the system performance and total system costs.

The (at least) partial vertical integration together with 100 MW+ in-house production capacities may enable companies like Suncore or Soitec to get a significant advantage compared to their competitors.

“An alternative approach is to subcontract most of the business and thus lower a company’s capital needs and at the same time transfer most of the business risk to subcontractors. This approach is advantageous for small companies with limited sources of financing. In the report we analyze both approaches,” says Milan Rosina, Market & Technology Analyst, Photovoltaics, at Yole Développement.

The performance of each individual element of an HCPV system says nothing about the performance of the whole system. All elements must be carefully optimised and matched in order to get optimal system performance, as shown in this report.

The analysis of different approaches (germanium vs. GaAs wafer, PMMA vs. SOG optics, etc.) allows identification of the main technology trends as well as materials and manufacturing techniques used. It helps to evaluate the potential of different HCPV components for cost reduction and performance enhancement.

Search the news archive

To close this popup you can press escape or click the close icon.
Register - Step 1

You may choose to subscribe to the Compound Semiconductor Magazine, the Compound Semiconductor Newsletter, or both. You may also request additional information if required, before submitting your application.

Please subscribe me to:


You chose the industry type of "Other"

Please enter the industry that you work in:
Please enter the industry that you work in: