In concentrating solar PV, much higher efficiencies than those for conventional PV are achieved by concentrating sunlight on solar panels.
In this technology, sunlight is concentrated on solar panels, sometimes as high as 100 suns – that is, the concentration is as high as 100 times the concentration available for conventional solar power plants. (Read more on concentrating solar PV from here).
What are the highest efficiencies that have been reported from CPV power plants?
At lab conditions, concentrating solar PV technologies have reached higher than 40% efficiency. In fact, as of 2016, the certified lab efficiency of solar cells through concentrating solar PV is as high as 46%!
Even in standard test conditions (usually done through small demo plants and pilots), CPV technologies have shown efficiencies upwards of 35%, with one of the latest records achieved in 2016 being about 39%.
Real world CPV power plants (usually 5 MW and above) have shown efficiencies well over 30% as of 2016.
Compare these with the highest efficiency achieved by conventional (monocrystalline) solar cells at lab scale of 24.1% (as announced by SunPower earlier in 2016).
But it is not efficiency alone that matters. What finally matters is the cost of electricity.
The overall cost of electricity from CPV power plants are much higher than those from conventional solar power plants. In addition, the rapidly falling costs for conventional solar PV panels have also made CPV relatively unattractive as a solar photovoltaic alternative. As a result, CPV is still only a niche player in the overall solar power plant sector, with hardly any large-scale commercial installation as of 2016.