While the solar photovoltaic market is tight and competitive, there is one arm researchers say is almost guaranteed to grow.
Copper indium gallium diselenide solar (CIGS) will double in installed capacity by 2015, according to a recently released research report from Lux Research. The market for CIGS is expected to be worth more than $2.3 billion by then.
“The big driver for us to look at this was all of the oversupply in the industry creating downward pressure,” said Lux analyst Pallavi Madakasiri. “For a new company to try to get in now is almost impossible.”
Traditional mono- and poly-crystalline solar photovoltaic modules have flooded the market causing dramatic price drops and lower profit margins for the companies building them.
In traditional thin-film technologies, First Solar completely dominates the market.
But CIGS have shown tremendous increases in conversion efficiency, reaching over 20 percent at the cell level, Madakasiri said.
Manufacturing and productions costs have also fallen off as processes have grown more efficient.
And most of the companies working in that market are still getting started.
“There has been a lot of interest and investment in CIGS,” Madakasiri said.
The technology is emerging with a lot of opportunity for growth, Madakasiri said, though it will face challenges, including a sharp fall in venture capital dollars.
Among those companies actively working in the market, some stand out.
“We used 12 different metrics to identify winners and losers,” Madakisiri said.
The criteria graded companies on their technical value, business execution, business maturity and capacity.
“Solar Frontier clearly leads the pack,” Madakasiri said.
That company has a solid position in the “dominant” quadrant of the Lux Research grid. Solar Frontier has already worked its way into emerging markets like India, where it is selling about 30 megawatts of CIGS cells a year.
“We also believe others have a very good chance of succeeding,” Madakasiri said.
Other contenders in the CIGS market are Global Solar, Avancis and Solibro. Madakasiri said she expects they could be very successful if they make good business decisions moving forward.