CPV stands for concentrator photovoltaics. A concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) system converts light energy into electrical energy in the same way that conventional photovoltaic technology does. The difference in the technologies lies in the addition of an optical system that focuses a large area of sunlight onto each cell. Solar concentrators of all varieties may be used with the base technology either being refractive or reflective.
The other primary difference is in the cells. Traditional PV systems utilize large amounts of silicon solar cells. In contrast, CPV systems utilize a small amount of high‐efficiency solar cell material. These cells used in high concentration CPV systems are referred to as multijunction or III‐V cells. The CPV panels are mounted on to keep the focal point on the cell as the sun moves across the sky.
CPV is sometimes confused with CSP – Concentrating Solar Power. Whereas PV converts light energy directly to electricity, CSP systems utilize heat from the system to generate power in a traditional steam engine power plant environment.
CPV, with its higher efficiency delivers higher energy production per megawatt installed, provides the lowest cost of solar energy in high solar regions of the world. The technology is in its early stage with significant headroom for future innovation, and it has the ability to ramp to gigawatts of production very rapidly. Many of the limitations for PV in the past are overcome by advances in CPV technology.