Organic Photovoltaics May Have Only Limited Potential In Solar Market

Commercial uses for organic photovoltaic (OPV) modules will almost certainly materialize over the next decade, driven by unique form factors and the potential for lower costs, according to a new report from Lux Research.

However, OPV's comparatively poor conversion efficiencies and short lifetimes mean that it will not compete with conventional solar technologies, limiting its market potential. Lux Research projects an OPV market that reaches $159 million in 2020.

The report estimates prospective growth for OPV modules, which use organic (carbon-containing) polymers or molecules to convert light to electricity. The report calculates adoption potential for OPV's two main technology categories – bulk heterojunction (BHJ) OPV devices and dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) – in five different market segments: building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), developing world applications, defense, consumer electronics and signage.

"While part of OPV's appeal is the hope of low costs, we found it won't beat crystalline silicon or inorganic thin film on cost per watt,’ says Alex Carter, a Lux Research associate and the report's lead author. ‘As a result, developers will focus on niche applications where OPV provides other capabilities like transparency and flexibility. There will be some success, but not the disruptive impact developers are proclaiming.’

To estimate likely prospects for OPV through 2020, Lux Research calculated the total market size addressable by OPV in the five segments listed above. It then projected potential market share for both BHJ OPV and DSSCs.

OPV is expected to reach $159 million on the back of BIPV and defense. Lux Research projects an OPV market reaching 97 MW and $159 million in 2020. Here, defense signifies the largest market, with BIPV close behind. BHJ technology dominates early, but as flexible DSSC devices mature, these devices are expected to gain to capture 53% of the market in 2020.

BIPV provides niches for both BHJ and DSSC, Lux Research adds. The report examines three variations of BIPV: flexible membranes for roofing and shade structures (e.g., awnings) solar shingles for pitched roofing, and rigid windows and fade elements. BIPV overall will grow to 27 MW of demand and a $44 million market, with around two-thirds of that based on flexible membranes and most of the balance from windows and facades. BHJ takes 47% of the market here in megawatts, but only 39% in revenues.

Defense applications are driven by portable power for soldiers. The ease of integrating OPV into certain flexible structures and the ability to pattern it could help set it apart for some applications, such as integration into tents and even uniforms, and allow it to gain some market share, the report says. In defense applications, OPV will expand to 34 MW in 2020, pulling in $64 million in revenues – split 60:40 between DSSC and BHJ.

SOURCE: Lux Research

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