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Is the Downfall of SolFocus a Harbinger of Doom for CPV Modules?


San Jose-based SolFocus may serve as a harbinger of things to come for the solar panel industry. Admitting financial difficulty, SolFocus has announced that the latest rounds of venture capital investment have fallen through, and in order to survive, the company needs a buyout.

SolFocus manufactures concentrating photovoltaic modules (CPV) which uses lenses or mirrors – a sort of optical system – in order to utilize more sunlight per square inch of PV surface. Standard PV systems cannot hold a candle to CPV systems. SolFocus’ competitors cannot touch their efficiency.

Amonix’s commercially available modules have reached 35% efficiency and Solar Junction has reached 44% efficiency in laboratory-controlled testing.

Here’s the rub: CPV panels are a brilliant choice, long-term. They handle extreme temperatures better than flat panel PV and may be the solution for solar power in desert cities. However, in the short-term, CPV panels cannot compete. They are more expensive and therefore less attractive to consumers and companies.

Over the past two years, SolFocus has deployed 15 megawatts of CPV projects and was planning a 450 megawatt endeavor over the US border and into the Mexican city of Tecate. This will most likely be put on hold as the future of SolFocus is up in the air. Only a core staff of the company remains, and the enduring members are only there to maintain current projects and prepare the company for potential sale.


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