Over the last 25 years, crystalline silicon photovoltaics have become the world’s fastest growing energy source. The last cleantech boom saw a few competing technologies such as thin-film solar try and fail to compete with the mainstream offerings. However, today’s advances in technology, smart business models and progressive funding solutions are creating new opportunities for a small number of perovskite and dye-sensitized thin-film photovoltaic innovators. While previously seen as a direct competitor, next generation solar innovators are finding niches within adjacent segments – being used to retrofit on existing silicon wafer, on glass building facades, and enabling self-powered IoT devices. The global market for emerging solar is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10% over the next five years from $6.2 billion in 2019.
Instead of directly competing, innovators commercializing thin-film perovskite photovoltaics are capitalizing on the existing $183 billion photovoltaic industry, placing panels in a tandem configuration on top of silicon wafers, resulting in perovskite-silicon tandem solar cells. This improves the performance of silicon solar cells on the same footprint by over 27% and reduces the levelized cost of energy. In the new-build office building market, perovskite solar solutions are being adopted by building developers who are looking to drive energy efficiency standards. The advent of the low-power IoT market is also creating opportunities for thin-film solar solutions which operate under ambient light conditions, in both artificial and natural light. As a result, dye-sanitized solar innovators who have reached production scale are selling to component manufacturers and have received market interest from a range of corporate players.
The perovskite tandem solar industry is being driven by Oxford PV, which this year has received $84 million to install a 200MW silicon heterojunction solar cell line in partnership with photovoltaic equipment supplier, Meyer Burger. Other players include Saule Technologies, Physee and SolarWindow, who are key competitors within the building integrated photovoltaics market, competing to win tenders for new builds. Dye sensitized solar cells were a popular area for research in the early 2010s, with several companies aiming for commercial production including Sono-Tek, Dyesol, G24 Power, Fujikura, and Solaronix Technologies. But while scientists continue to investigate the technology, it has for the most part been eclipsed by perovskite in terms of commercial interest. However, Exeger’s $10 million and $29 million investments this year from SoftBank and AMF respectively represent one of the biggest commitments to a company looking to integrate solar into IoT and electronic devices.