Thursday, March 21, 2013

How can III-V cells compete with cheap crystalline silicon PV?

FRANCE: Yole Développement announces its High-Concentration Photovoltaics Business and Technology Update report.

Yole Développement’s report presents the key factors to improve the bankability of HCPV installation projects and a new analysis to guide strategic business decisions related to this technology. Yole Développement also updated from its 2012 edition market data for wafers, epiwafers and installation, costs of HCPV modules and system.

How to drive the annual HCPV market to 1.5 GW by 2020?
As of March 2013, approximately 120 HCPV installations have been installed throughout the world, accounting for a total capacity of about 130 MW. This is only approximately 1/1000 of the total installations of flat-plate PV, represented mainly by crystalline silicon.

The main advantage of High-Concentration Photovoltaics (HCPV) over flat-plate PV is high efficiency - surpassing 40 percent (at cell level), and reaching about 30 percent at module level. This level of efficiency is not achievable by conventional PV technologies.

As Yole Développement shows in the report, 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 significantly increasing manufacturing costs) 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 Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) competitive with that of fossil-fueled 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 minimizing the uncertainty about the solar resources at the future installation site, etc.

This Yole Développement’s 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.
Supply chain: vertical integration or subcontracting? Which business model will win?
HCPV market is very restricted and there is no place for less-competitive players. Several companies have recently stopped or reduce 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 the report, with rising market volume, 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.

Key technology choices to be made in the next five years
The performance of each individual element of an HCPV system says nothing about the performance of the whole system. All elements must be carefully optimized and matched in order to get optimal system performance, as shown in this report.

The Yole Développement’s report provides a detailed overview of all HCPV components needed to understand the challenges related to HCPV systems: wafer, epiwafer, solar cell, receiver module, concentrating optics, HCPV module, inverter and tracking system.

The analysis of different approaches (Ge 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.

The comparison of competing approaches enables identification of the best technology choice. The report also deals with manufacturing challenges (manual vs. automated module assembly, main factors to lower manufacturing costs, etc.).

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