Despite still being in its infancy, the global concentrating solar PV market is growing so rapidly that predictions are surfacing that the technology could generate electricity for as little as between $A0.07/kWh and $A0.11/kWh by 2030 – cheaper than fossil fuels.
At least, those are the projections of a joint report released this week by German Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems and the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Not bad, considering that one year ago, Fraunhofer put the levelized cost of electricity from brown coal at up to 0.053 euro/kWh ($A0.08) and from combined cycle gas power plants up to 0.098 euro/kWh ($A0.14).
The report, Current Status of Concentrator Photovoltaic (CPV) Technology, calls recent progress in CPV impressive, with module efficiencies as high as 36.7 per cent.
This efficiency rate, coupled with the dramatic reduction in the use of semiconductor material has resulted in a notable
growth of installations in recent years, the report says, and a driving-down of prices.
As the graphs below show (in Euros), the falling generation price means that system prices, including installation for CPV power plants, could be between just over $A1000 and $1,600/kWp by 2030.
But the report stresses that the CPV sector still faces some headwinds, having already endured a period of industry consolidation that started in 2011.
“The main challenge cited by the industry is the difficulty of CPV to compete with flat-plate c-Si PV modules on cost, in light of the recent drop in prices due to the significant advantage in manufacturing scale that flat-plate currently has over CPV,” the report notes.
“Companies expect that CPV can compete on an LCOE basis with flat-plate PV when installed in sunny areas, but
the road to scale has been difficult.”
As Australian CPV developers would know only too well, there is also concern about there is concern about the future stability of the market.
The report notes that several confidence-shaking “major blows” to formerly leading CPV companies have occurred very recently, not least of all the scrapping of Solar Systems’ (now Silex) plans for a 100MW CPV plant in Mildura, here in Australia.
“It is unclear yet how large of an impact these events will have on the CPV industry as a whole,” the report says, and it points to the promise of “several strong companies” making multi-junction cells that can be used in terrestrial CPV applications.