Crystalline Silicon PV Solar Technology is beating other rivals in the solar race hands down, with other technologies like thin film solar, solar thermal and concentrated PV facing survival questions. Tons of companies with their business models based on alternative solar technologies have already shut down with even the biggest thin film solar company, First Solar in severe problems. Already a number of leading solar thermal companies like Solar Millenium have gone out of business.
CPV technology uses mirrors to concentrate solar energy onto high efficiency solar cells made of different materials. Now the concentrated PV solar technology companies are starting to feel the heat as well with one of the biggest companies Amonix closing down its factory and firing all its workers. Amonix was the leading designer and manufacturer of concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) commercial solar power systems. Originally developed for space-based applications, Amonix III-V multijunction cells use three different photovoltaic materials in a single cell, they extract more energy from the range of wavelengths in sunlight. Under concentration, this can exceed 39% in volume production (over 41% in world-record demonstrations).
Note Amonix was starting to get traction last year managing to sell a 30 MW solar plant based on its proprietary technology.
While last year CPV companies were winning some major contracts, it looked like CPV could thrive even under the c-Si onslaught.
CPV vs. Thin Film/ PV/ CSP
Concentrated Photovoltaics (CPV) is regarded as the poorer cousin of other Solar Technologies such as Thin Film, PV and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). While other technologies get much more media attention and investment dollars, CPV is not considered sexy enough. However things seem to be changing with New Contracts being signed by CPV leaders such as Solaria and Amonix. Concentrating Photovoltaics (CPV) unlike CSP uses Solar Light to generate Energy rather the Solar Heat. Also it uses Optics to increase the Efficiency of Photovoltaic Cells, generally made of Crystalline Technology. CSP on the other hand uses Solar Mirrors to Focus Heat onto materials such as Salts and Oil which in turn convert this Heat into Energy.
Note CPV like the Thin Film Technology saw investments during 2007-2008 when the Polysilicon Prices were quite high at $400/kg. With prices crashing to $50/kg in 2009 and 2010, these Technology Suppliers ran into a lot of problems. CPV is making a comeback as traditional c-Si based cells are reaching the upper limit of their efficiency. Sunpower which makes the most efficient PV cells recently said that it would look at CPV technology to improve the efficiency of their 24% cells further. Note that Efficiency Improvements are the most important cost cutting measure for Solar Technology in order to bring it towards Grid Parity.
However now it remains to be seen how CPV evolves given that one of the biggest players in this space has gone out of business.