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Future of concentrating photovoltaics focus of technology roundtable at UC Santa Barbara

UC Santa Barbara's Institute for Energy Efficiency and the Center for Energy Efficient Materials Host a Technology Roundtable on Concentrator Photovoltaics

University of California - Santa Barbara


IMAGE: This is the concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) system. view more

Credit: Photo courtesy of Amonix

Concentrator photovoltaics offer the potential to provide the lowest cost electricity in regions such as the US desert southwest, where the solar resource is enough to satisfy the entire energy needs of the US many times over. Concentrator photovoltaics (CPV) is a technology that uses optics such as lenses or curved mirrors to concentrate a large amount of sunlight onto a small area of solar photovoltaic cells to generate electricity. Compared to non-concentrator photovoltaics, CPV systems save money on the cost of the solar cells because only a small area is required. However, advances are still needed to make concentrator photovoltaics the clear choice for power generation in areas with high amounts of direct sunlight.

On July 25-26th, 2012 the Institute for Energy Efficiency and the Center for Energy Efficient Materials brought together key stakeholders from the private sector, academia and government for a highly interactive, facilitated discussion to inform and focus research in the CPV field. This Technology Roundtable provided a unique opportunity to shape the direction of research and innovation in this promising area. The title of the roundtable was Focus on Concentrator Photovoltaics: from cell to system. Topics included required cell efficiencies, cell costs, technological innovations for both cells and systems, and the bankability of CPV projects.

The overall goal of the roundtable was: To identify what it will take for concentrator photovoltaics to supply 100 GW of solar electricity in the US by 2030.

The Technology Roundtable was led by Dick Swanson, President Emeritus and Founder, SunPower Corporation, along with a professional co-facilitator. Mr. Swanson wrote a paper in 2000 titled The Promise of Concentrators which discussed the future of concentrator photovoltaics and the technological advancements that were needed at that time. This workshop was an opportunity to reassess the industry, its potential and its challenges. It also provided an opportunity to review the latest data and to form a new roadmap to help the CPV industry reach its potential, in the short and long term.

Representatives from NREL and the U.S. Department of Energy were in attendance, including the Director of DOE's SunShot Initiative. Other participants included representatives from Sandia National Laboratories, Semprius, Emcore, Spectrolab, SolFocus, Solar Junction, GreenVolts, Abengoa Solar, Soitec, the Bay Area Photovoltaic Consortium, Ioffe Institute, ISFOC, Fraunhofer CSE, Penn State, University of Arizona, MIT, Yale, Stanford, Ohio State, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, and UCSB, among others.

A post-roundtable report is being prepared identifying the group's key findings and next steps, which will be distributed to inform and expedite research in the field. Stay tuned to the Institute's website to view the report:

Steering Committee:
Dick Swanson, President Emeritus and Founder, SunPower Corporation
Richard King, Principal Scientist, Spectrolab
Dan Friedman, Group Manager, III-V Materials and Devices, National Renewable Energy Lab
Jim Speck, Professor, College of Engineering, UC Santa Barbara

This event was co-hosted by UC Santa Barbara's Institute for Energy Efficiency and the Center for Energy Efficient Materials (an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the Department of Energy, Office of Basic Energy Sciences). Sponsors for this Technology Roundtable included the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The Institute for Energy Efficiency's Technology Roundtables are small-group, facilitated workshops that bring together leading stakeholders from industry, government and academia to accelerate the development of a target energy efficiency or renewable energy technology.


About the Institute for Energy Efficiency

The Institute for Energy Efficiency is an interdisciplinary research institute dedicated to researching and developing technological solutions for an efficient, sustainable and clean energy future. The Institute's cutting-edge research activities leverage the considerable expertise of U.C. Santa Barbara's highly acclaimed faculty, scientists, engineers and researchers, including five Nobel Laureates. By fostering collaborations, sponsoring research, and expediting the commercialization of new technologies, the Institute strives to deliver significant advances in energy efficiency in the near term.

For further information please visit

About the Center for Energy Efficient Materials (CEEM)

The Center for Energy Efficient Materials (CEEM) is an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences of the US Department of Energy. The principal activity of the Center is a cross-disciplinary multi-institution research program directed at critical energy challenges in three key focus areas of fundamental science and engineering: photovoltaics, thermoelectrics, and solid-state lighting. Innovative materials and novel devices for sustainable energy efficient applications are unifying themes. A highly collaborative research enterprise, CEEM engages participants from five institutions: the University of California Santa Barbara (the lead institution), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the University of California Santa Cruz. A corresponding education program provides a rich learning experience for undergraduate and graduate students.

For further information please visit

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