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Organic solar PV falls short of expectations

Organic solar photovoltaics' (OPV) relatively poor conversion efficiencies and short lifetimes, means it will not compete with conventional solar power technologies, according to Lux Research.

By Renewable Energy Focus staff

Commercial uses for solar OPV modules will nonetheless take place over the next decade and the market could reach US$159 million in 2020.

Looking for a Future in Organic Photovoltaics by Lux Research looks at possible growth for solar OPV modules using organic (carbon-containing) polymers or molecules.

The report calculates adoption potential for solar OPV’s two main technology categories – bulk heterojunction (BHJ) solar OPV devices and dye-sensitised solar cells (DSSC) – in five different market segments: building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), developing world applications, defence, consumer electronics, and signage.

“While part of OPV’s appeal is the hope of low costs, we found it won’t beat crystalline silicon or inorganic thin-film on cost per watt,” says Alex Carter, a Lux Research Associate and the report’s lead author.

“As a result, developers will focus on niche applications where OPV provides other capabilities like transparency and flexibility. There will be some success, but not the disruptive impact developers are proclaiming.”

Key findings include:

  • Solar OPV will reach 97 MW and US$159m on the back of BIPV and defence. BHJ technology dominates early but, as flexible DSSC devices mature, they gain to capture 53% of the market in 2020;
  • BIPV provides niches for both BHJ and DSSC. The report examines three variations on BIPV: flexible membranes for roofing and shade structures like awnings, solar shingles for pitched roofing, and rigid windows and fade elements. BIPV – overall – will grow to 27 MW of demand and a US$44m market, with around two thirds of that based on flexible membranes, and most of the balance from windows and facades. BHJ takes 47% of the market here by MW, but only 39% by revenues; and
  • Defence applications are driven by portable power for soldiers. The ease of integrating solar OPV into certain flexible structures and the ability to pattern it could help set it apart for some applications – like integration into tents and even uniforms – and allow it to gain some market share. In defence applications, OPV will expand to 34 MW in 2020, pulling in US$64m in revenues – split 60:40 between DSSC and BHJ.

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