HCPV trends: GaAs challenges Ge, utility-scale projects in the pipeline

Yole released “High Concentration Photovoltaics: Technology, Applications, Industry & Market Report,” evaluating the HCPV market potential through 2018. Some key trends? Supply chain collaborations, GaAs substrates, cost savings at the cell-level, and much higher installation rates.

November 9, 2011 — Yole Développement released “High Concentration Photovoltaics: Technology, Applications, Industry & Market Report,” evaluating the HCPV market potential through 2018. The report covers trends in this phtoovoltaics sector, challenges, and technologies of HCPV systems (Ge & GaAs wafer, III-V cell, receiver module, optics, module, tracker, inverter, etc).

The current HCPV market is dominated by a few established players with long project track records and important pipelines for new installations: Amonix, Soitec, and SolFocus. Faster growth could create opportunities for new players with novel approaches. HCPV combines technological competency from wafer manufacturers, epi-foundries, IC companies, mechanical engineering companies, and other areas.

Performance and reliability in HCPV installations require that all system components are compatible, which suits vertically integrated models where one player controls the whole technology chain. Because the HCPV market is currently small, the economic risk of this kind of vertical integration is higher than in the silicon or thin film photovoltaics industries. The HCPV supply chain is dispersed, with system elements supplied by 80+ companies. These opposing forces of supply chain diversity and compatibility requirements are leading to calls for technology cooperation among companies.

Yole compiled a list of HCPV players, with their place in the supply chain and geographical localization, for the report. Strategic partnerships and relationships are covered, as well as the level of integration of the main players.

Figure. The multicomponent and multidisciplinary HCPV system. (Source: HCPV Report, Yole Développement, Oct. 2011).

HCPV system components: wafer, epiwafer, solar cell, receiver module, concentrating optics, HCPV module, inverter and tracking system. Today, HCPV solar cells are typically grown in multijunction design on 4″ germanium (Ge) substrates. Although the cell accounts for 10-20% of total system cost, it has significant potential for a cost/Watt decrease, acheivable with new cell designs, manufacturing processes, and larger wafers. Some major Ge wafer suppliers have 6″ wafers commercially available.

However, because of some limitations of Ge-wafer-based multi-junction cells, several companies, such as Spire and Solar Junction are already investigating gallium arsenide (GaAs) as an alternative material. Higher efficiencies are being recorded on these substrates. If produced at competitive cost, HCPV cells on GaAs could increase their market share in the market dominated today by germanium substrate.

Although cumulative High Concentration Photovoltaics (HCPV) installed capacity represents only about 30MW (less than 1% of the total PV market), it is currently at an inflection point to be deployed in utility-scale applications in some sunny locations and may surpass 1GW of the new yearly installed capacity in 2018. Several multi-megawatt projects announced within the last months are indicating that the HCPV technology is beginning its transition from R&D development and small demonstration projects to utility-scale installations. The massive increase of production capacities mainly in the USA will strongly support the HCPV entry to the electricity business.

Also read: CPV ramps to utility status in 2011

In locations with very high direct normal irradiation, HCPV is already proposing a lower levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) than flat-plate PV (silicon and thin film). Moreover, HCPV has high, still unused potential for cost decrease, mainly by increasing system efficiency and manufacturing volume.

Milan Rosina is a full time analyst at Yole Développement for photovoltaic market & technologies. He received his Ph. D. in 2002 from the INPG in France. He gained experience as a research scientist in several renowned R&D institutions & industrial companies where he worked in the field of microelectronics, PV, LEDs & nanotechnology.

Get the report at www.yole.fr.

Companies cited in the report:
10x Technology, 3M, Abengoa Solar, Amonix, Arima, Arima EcoEnergy, Azur Space, AXT, Browave, CESI, Chevron, CompSolar, Concentrator Optics GmbH, Concentrix Solar, Cool Earth Solar, Cyrium, DEGEREnergie, Daido Steel, Delta Electronics, DongFang Electric Corporation, Edmund Optics, Emcore, Energy Innovations, Envoltek, Epistar, ES systems, EverPhoton, Evonik Industries, Freiberger, Fresnel Optics GmbH, Green and Gold Energy, GreenVolts, Guascor Foton, Heliotrop, Hitachi Cable, Hokuang Optics, Indra, IQE, Isofoton, Isuzu Glass, JDSU, Kimoga, LPI, M-Com, Magpower, Microlink Devices, Microsharp Solar, Mitsubishi Chemicals, Morgan Solar, Opel Solar International, Quantasol, Pairan, PBT Silicon, Powercom, Probright, Pyron Solar, Renovalia, RFMD, SanAn Optoelectronics, San Diego Gas & Electric, Semprius, Sener, Sharp, Silex Systems, SOITEC, Sol3G, Solapoint, SolarTec International, Solar Junction, Solar Systems, Solergy, SolFocus, Soliant Energy, SMA, Southern California Edison, Spectrolab, Spire Semiconductor, Spirox, Sumitomo Electric Industries, Suncore Photovoltaic Technology, Sungri, Sylarus Technologies, Titan Tracker, Tong Hsing Electronic Industries, Umicore, VPEC, Zenith Solar.

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