There have been several important publications recently on the cost reductions and learning curve progress happening in CPV that we wanted to talk about. First is this fantastic bit of research published by Joan E. Haysom et al from the SUNLAB Centre for Research in Photonics at the University of Ottawa. Her research shows that the learning curve, or the amount a product drops in price with a cumulative doubling in production, is around 18%, which is higher than the values for CSP or traditional PV, which are 11% and 12-14% respectively. This is combined for CPV system prices which today, at much smaller production levels, are competitive with traditional PV and CSP approaches at far higher volumes. Below is a chart from her paper showing the precipitous drop in prices for CPV systems in large installations. CPV is already at pricing similar for other high performance PV technology, such as back contact silicon, at a much smaller production volume.
In addition, today PV-magazine.com put out an article about a recent NREL / Fraunhofer ISE report detailing the progress made in CPV to date, including pricing / cost progress. The report cites that CPV prices are “tumbling” with pricing competitive today against PV in high DNI environments.
Overall, this is good news for CPV, showing that the products and technology are “growing up” with cost and performance values that position CPV well for continued growth and interest in many market segments.
Please feel free to explore these new reports for yourself at the links above
An article posted at PV-Tech.org posted this week called attention to the multiple US PV manufacturers planning on adding new US based production capacity for PV modules in the coming years. They state that 10 companies have announced close to 2 GW of new capacity in the US with close to half coming online in 2015. While no CPV companies were included in this count (yet!), this is still exciting news for us in the PV product design and manufacturing space.
While each company has its own motivations for planning additional capacity, I think there are several reasons for this worth exploring. First, the “market expected price / performance” of PV has stabilized drastically in the last several years. Gone are the days of drastic price swings in the market destroying business plan assumptions and a return to a more gradual price / performance improvement over time. This has allowed companies to more successfully plan for long term deployments and capacity addition, which needs at least a few years of stable market conditions to recoup and profit off investments made today.
Second, there is no doubt an effect of the pending tariff on PV modules produced overseas using non-competitive practices. This makes the US instantly a more attractive place to manufacture and avoid tariff measures. It also increase the attractiveness of other approaches, like CPV, which were being forced to compete directly with highly subsidized foreign panels without the advantage of established industry infrastructure.
Third, people in general are getting more familiar with solar energy and what impact it could have for them in their personal and professional lives. The aggregate market for solar is expanding rapidly with niche markets, like off-grid and carports among many others, often growing faster than the market in general. This means plenty of new opportunities for businesses and products flexible enough to meet these demands and service these new customers.
Lastly, with 95% of all PV products looking and feeling exactly the same, a renewed market for US based design and manufacture of new and improved solar products is all but guaranteed. This will get innovative product designers, engineers, scientists excited about solar again and working hard towards an even brighter solar future! This is exactly the case for us here at Arzon Solar, where we’ll soon be announcing some exciting new products for the growing solar energy marketplace. Stay tuned!
Today Green Tech Media put out this post with quite the negative connotation / attitude towards CPV. They paint a picture of CPV companies struggling for survival among a 40 GW / year c-Si marketplace (all of which are selling PV equipment at a near zero margin because, well, they all make nearly the same product).
Frankly, we are more than a little confused by this “glum” attitude. But don’t take our word for it, lets just look at some of the industry numbers. In 2013, CPV as an industry installed about 60 MW of generation. In 2014, companies are on track to install about 100 MW. Now, I’m no mathematician, but that to me sounds like a 66% growth rate. But maybe this was a fluke, right? Lets look a year earlier. In 2012 the industry installed about 40MW, so from 2012 to 2013, a 50% growth rate.
Compare this growth to PV in general, which experienced about a 38% growth rate from 2012 till 2013, and a more modest 26% rate from 2013 to 2014. Nonetheless an impressive rate, but simply not as impressive as CPV.
Truth be told, there is no reason to be negative about the growth prospects of CPV or PV. Both are growing leaps and bounds as technology continues to develop, products continue to mature and opportunities continue to expand. So cheer up GTM, there’s plenty to be happy about in CPV.
In 2013, 37 GW of solar was installed, of which 95% was the exact same product from a host of companies, c-Si solar panels. Its no wonder margins for such product are razor thin on the best of days, are zero on the normal days and actually losing money on the worst of days. There is incredibly small amounts of differentiation from company to company, from product to product. All of the panels look and perform virtually the same, so manufacturers are left to squeeze the economies-of-scale equation as hard they can and go to war with each other on price.
Now imagine there is another approach to solar that is competitive on price vs energy generation today at 1/300th the volume of c-Si production (in other words, has not experienced all that economies-of-scale has to offer), but offers true product differentiation on many levels. For example, the ability to get up to 22% more energy vs single-axis tracking c-Si from or 42% more energy vs fixed tilt c-Si from a given area of land (as shown by a 2013 NREL report). Or, the ability to lose only 30% of the efficiency loss suffered by c-Si at high temperatures. Or, the ability to interact with only 8 sqft of land for 70 KW DC-PTC of power, greatly reducing land impact. Or the ability to upgrade key components such as solar cells and optics since the solar cells used are increasing at an efficiency of 1% absolute / yr. Or a far lower annual degradation rate, with no high-first-year rate experienced by many c-Si panels.
Well, the good news is you don’t have to imagine this, because this other approach is already here. This other approach is CPV. And to continue with the numbers, over 200 MW of CPV have been installed to date, with 100 MW coming online in 2014 alone and a lot more CPV already in the pipeline. So as the curious by-the-numbers observer thinks quietly about where the real growth opportunities lie in the solar market, CPV clearly deserves close examination, and perhaps a whole lot more!
Arzon Solar is proud to showcase its own “Electric Ave” where employees are charging their plug-in hybrid cars right at work. Our team clearly practices what it preaches!
Our team is excited to officially announce to the world the launch of Arzon Solar, LLC. Earlier this year, Arzon Solar acquired the assets, technology and key expertise of the concentrator photovoltaics pioneer and leader Amonix, Inc. Arzon Solar is now hard at work developing high performance, high value CPV-enabled products for several key markets.
Arzon Solar’s current commercially available product is the 8700 solar power generator for large scale commercial and utility scale solar power generation applications. We are proud to announce that our team has started pilot production on the 8700 generator right here in the USA.
We invite you to stay tuned, we will be publishing more information shortly about future products as well as exciting developments at Arzon Solar.