System Application Benefits and Impacts

An important characteristic of concentrator technology is the potential for rapid scaleup. Except for the solar cells, the remaining concentrator components are readily available from metal, plastic, glass, and electrical fabricators an d suppliers. Concentrators also offer the benefit of having no effluents or emissions during operation. The effluent s resulting from cell manufacture are lower, by the concentration factor, than those of flat-plate (one-sun) solar cells . Further, if the availability of polysilicon feedstock becomes an issue for the crystalline-silicon photovoltaic industry , the fact that concentrators use one hundred to one thousand times less silicon than flat-plate systems may becom e important [1].

Sales of concentrating systems are le ss than 1 percent of all photovoltaic system sales. Concentrators are not well suited to small applications where most of these PV sales have been made, and the very large application of concentrators as utility power plants require s low cost from the beginning. Concentrators have additional burdens compared to flat-plate systems. Concerns over tracking-system reliability are added to concerns over their obtrusive appearance and more -restrictive mounting options. They are difficult to integrate into residential roofs, for example.

Knowing that concentrators cannot compete in certain markets amenable to small flat-plate PV systems does not mean they cannot compete in other markets. High-efficiency concentrators will be stiff competition for other PV technologies in medium-scale p ower applications in good solar-resource regions [2]. However, even though some applications favor PV concentrator over flat-plate systems, or vice versa, the most significant competition in the U.S. for either is natural gas.

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