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Is Concentrating PV Technology going down the Solar Thermal Technology way

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Concentrating PV Technology

Concentrating PV Technology (CPV) is a niche solar technology in which mirrors are used to concentrate sun rays on high efficiency solar PV materials. This technology was supposed to have better potential than other technologies such as solar thermal technology, since it was built on the mainstream crystalline PV technology rather than competing with it. One of the world’s largest solar panel makers SunPower has already got a plan to advance its technology to use low power CPV technology.

However, some of the high power CPV technology companies are facing the heat. Some early entrants like Amonix has closed down a couple of years ago, but semi wafer maker Soitec has been pushing ahead its manufacturing plans based on some contracts it won in South Africa and USA. But now Soitec is facing major reversals as two of its contracts have been cancelled. Its plant in the USA now faces closure due to a lack of orders.

Soitec is now forecasting losses for the whole of the next year, due to the failure of its solar business take off in the last couple of years. Like many other companies, Soitec has been bruised by the cutthroat competition in the solar business which has exploded nearly 6 times in size over the last 5 years, becoming a $100 billion industry. However, the massive interventions by governments in solar manufacturing has made it a minefield for companies without significant backing. Even large companies such as Bosch and Siemens have exited the business due to low profitability and severe competition.

Soitec received a huge blow when one of its major USA clients Tenaska cancelled a 150 MW order for CPV cells made by Soitec in favor of normal PV solar panels. There were disagreements about how to share the technology risk between the supplier and the client, as well as problems in equipment dispatches. New technology and products have a learning curve, which is a problem in the solar industry because the mainstream silicon PV technology is seeing massive cost reductions almost continuously. This makes it almost impossible for new technologies to compete with silicon PV. The same thing has happened to numerous other solar startups such as Nansolar, Miasole, Solyndra and others. I think Soitec would do well if it gets out of this solar business now, before it becomes a fatality like the others.


In California, Soitec had sold to a large Energy Service provider 150 MW(AC) of Power Purchase Agreements (“PPAs”) with San Diego Gas & Electric (“SDG&E”) for a solar project under development in California (see press release dated October 23, 2014). Soitec has been informed by the new owner of the PPA contract that they are facing a major roadblock which prevents the project to materialize. Certain of the administrative conditions pertaining to the transaction could not be fulfilled timely. Soitec will therefore not receive the expected CPV systems order from the designated EPC contractor which was anticipated to leverage its US cost base.


Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to

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