Siemens Invests in US Solar Startup Semprius

Siemens (NYSE: SI) has acquired a minority stake in US solar startup Semprius, which makes concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) modules.

Siemens’ stake – roughly 16% – gives it access to CPV technology, which many experts say is a key to reaching higher energy conversion efficiencies than is capable with crystalline or thin-film solar modules. 

Currently, Siemens acts as a general contractor on solar projects, responsible for planning, engineering, delivery and installation of solar power systems. But it does not make or sell solar cells or modules. With this deal, Siemens says it has opened the door to possibly extending from its current EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) model into this advanced photovoltaic market. 

"We believe the prospects are bright for concentrating photovoltaic systems that enable significantly higher efficiencies than conventional PV modules, and at the same time, offer enormous potential to achieve competitive levelized costs of electricity," says Martin Schulz, Vice President of Photovoltaics in the Renewable Energy Division of Siemens Energy.

Like other CPV companies, Durham, N.C.-based Semprius uses lenses to focus sunlight onto small, highly efficient solar cells. The National Renewable Energy Lab certified the conversion efficiency of Semprius’ cells at over 40%. 

The top efficiencies for traditional commercial crystalline solar cells are about 22%.

The market for CPV installations is still in its early stages but is expected to grow to up to 6 gigawatts (GW) by 2020. 

Apart from its high conversion performance, Semprius says low cost and flexible modular configuration are the other major selling points of its technolgy.

Modules built with Semprius’ patented production have been undergoing a full test installation in Arizona since August 2010. Additional installations are scheduled before the end of this year.

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