Concentrating photovoltaics (CPVs) aren’t dead yet and Soitec looks poised to prove it. The company recently introduced the next generation of its CPS modules, which are certified at 31.8 percent efficiency, which the company says is the highest commercial module available.
CPV was looking like a promising technology until the cost-drops of silicon-based photovoltaics (PV) became lower than the prices that CPV, which has a higher efficiency rate than normal PV has, could offer. A number of companies specializing in CPV, however, like Amonix and Soitec, are developing newer CPV units in an attempt to compete with traditional PV on cost per watt basis, as well as a cost per acre basis. And with efficiency increases like what Soitec has just announced, CPV could still have a place in solar industry.
The new module announced by Soitec is already in industrial volume production, according to a spokesperson at the company. And apparently it “has the highest efficiency of any commercial product available for multi-megawatt installations.” The new CX-M500 module increases power output from 2,335 Wp to 2,450 Wp, largely because of a new anti-reflective coating.
"With this new product, Soitec is continuing to raise the bar for solar-power efficiency and, looking ahead, the potential for further improvement is significant," said Gaetan Borgers, Executive Vice President of Soitec's Solar Energy Division. "Based on our current work in solar-cell development, we are well positioned to achieve even higher module efficiencies in the near future. With our newest commercial modules and their higher efficiencies, we are delivering on our cost-competitiveness roadmap."
Soitec's Concentrix technology uses a Fresnel lens to concentrate the sunlight by 500 times on small, multi-junction PV cells, which can absorb more of the sun’s spectrum than conventional PV cells. This results in higher efficiencies being reached. To help reduce costs - the multi-junction PV cells are much more expensive than conventional PV cells - Soitec is using technologies based in the circuit board and dual-pane window industries.
The company, though based in France, has production facilities near San Diego and a deal with San Diego Gas & Electric to install at least 125 megawatts of its CPV units. As such, the company's newest module complies with the California Solar Initiative, which allows for qualification of performance-based incentives from the California Energy Commission (CEC).
The company already has installations in 18 countries. And it recently signed a performance-warranty insurance contract with Munich Re, which the company says will ease financing of Soitec solar projects, since performance will be guaranteed by the insurer.