Is Concentrated Solar Technology Ready to Rise?


In a report released Tuesday, research firm Strategy Analytics projects that global installations of so-called concentrated photovoltaic technologies -- which use lenses, mirrors or other optics to concentrate sunlight and direct it to smaller solar cells than in traditional solar panels -- will nearly triple every year for the next four years.

Still, the firm expects that CPV technologies will continue to make up only a small portion of the total solar market, accounting for approximately 4% of worldwide solar installations in 2015.

Large-scale projects in Africa, Australia, the Middle East and the southwestern U.S. have helped to prove the technology, but the CPV is limited by the fact that they need more direct sunlight than traditional panels. In areas with plenty of direct sunlight, the systems can produce up to twice as much electricity as conventional panels, but they produce far less electricity in areas with little direct sunlight.

In sunny locations, the use of CPV systems could help the U.S. meet President Barack Obama's goal of 80% clean energy by 2035.

The U.S. residential market for solar panels doubled in 2009, while the rated capacity -- or the maximum amount of electricity that installed solar panels could theoretically produce -- jumped more than fourfold between 2001 and 2009, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, a Washington D.C.-based trade group. However, that cumulative capacity is only enough to support the equivalent of 350,000 homes.