Jul/Aug preview: CPV - expansion and bankability required

Ritesh Gupta

As the CPV sector comes to grips with a slowdown in the US and Europe, it sees the expediency required to get pilot systemson the ground in markets such as Saudi Arabia, South Africa and China.

This article excerpt is taken from the forthcoming issue of Renewable Energy Focus magazine (July/August issue). To register to receive a digital copy click here.

Acceptance and hold-ups, expansions and closures are all part and parcel of any renewable energy technology’s journey. CPV, as an upcoming solar technology, has had its share of ups and downs in the last year or so, but those entities that are expanding definitely promise to take the sector to a new level.

It is acknowledged that CPV has struggled lately due to fast price decline for standard PV panels. The key miscalculation of CPV players has been that they skated where the focus (i.e., cost of PV panels) has been, rather than where it is going to be. Together with the lack of bankability, this has led to only a very low market penetration of CPV so far, says Nikolai Dobrott, managing partner, Apricum – The Cleantech Advisory.

“However, we expect that PV pricing will more or less plateau short- to mid-term, which may give CPV players the unique opportunity to gain market share, but only if they reach the very demanding price points necessary and if they crack the bankability issue,” says Dobrott.

Emergence of new markets

Another unique opportunity is currently provided by the emergence of markets in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, where CPV could not only benefit from high direct solar irradiation, but also from the potential to localise manufacturing.

“In any case, it will definitely continue to be a tough battle for the CPV industry, with many companies yet to go out of business. Among all players, we are looking with particular interest at what Soitec is doing, which has many large-scale projects in the pipeline, has reached some economies of scale in manufacturing, and has sufficient corporate backing to finance its market entry,” says Dobrott.

For its part, Soitec emphatically states that it is expanding its CPV business. The company recently finalised a $108mn bond for its 44MW Touwsrivier project in South Africa. This is the first publicly-listed project bond ever issued to finance a solar power plant based on CPV technology.

“We have CPV installations worldwide in 14 countries at the moment and we are expecting a significant growth of the CPV market in several high DNI regions,” says Hansjörg Lerchenmüller, Senior Vice President Product Strategy of Soitec Solar Division.

“In the US, we have a project pipeline of 300MW with signed PPAs. Therefore, we opened a new factory in San Diego towards the end of 2012. The factory is designed to reach 280MW at full production.

"140MW are already operational. In South Africa, we are about to launch the construction of the 44MW project.”

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity