Beyond BIPV, NanoMarkets recognizes other end market opportunities for DSC that could bear fruit with higher-efficiency technology that works in low/ambient light conditions. However, we feel these are still several years further out from being viable revenue streams, and well short of the scale promised by BIPV:
• Sensor networks. This area has been boosted by the “Internet of Things” (IoT) movement, though PV is not the leading power source candidate. DSC would have competition from other energy harvesting options here, and NanoMarkets doesn’t see much commercial large-scale adoption in the near future.
• Military. Applied everywhere from drones to uniforms, this is another smaller-scale niche with dreams of taking off on large scale, as DSC’s features of flexibility, light weight, and autonomy play perfectly into military applications. Nevertheless we don’t see this as a major revenue generator even on an extended horizon.
• Automotive. This is an intriguing area, envisioning DSC panels embedded in both the exterior (rooftops and windows) and interior surfaces of cars. SolarPrint and Fiat have done early work here. Rechargeable stands for electric vehicles is a related area. Like other markets this sector is still early-stage development, but NanoMarkets believes rapid improvements in performance will make a major impact in this area.
• Indoor applications. Indoor portable charging was an early market for DSC because of the technology’s ability to generate electricity under low-light and artificial lighting conditions, with 20 percent efficiency exhibited. NanoMarkets believes this market could serve as a good substitute revenue-generating stream for DSC firms aside from the bigger target market of BIPV, especially if a major home goods or electronics firm were to commit. Solar chargers, the DSC success story so far, fall into this category with several vendors (G24, Samsung, Sekisui, Sony, TDK) already commercializing products, but NanoMarkets sees opportunities expanding into areas such as furniture (tables and lamps) with translucent surfaces incorporating a small battery to charge a portable device (Solaronix has produced one such prototype). Other portable consumer electronics avenues include e-readers, solar lamps, and solar-powered blinds.
• Outdoor applications. DSC is well suited to many outdoor applications, where its low-cost processing and flexibility trump lower efficiency and inflexibility of more traditional silicon-based PV options. Solar awnings and umbrellas are an early application in the context of DSC, enabling structures that serve both as canopies and energy-generating surfaces. Digital signage, from LCD store displays to billboards, is a booming market with some off-grid requirements that PV and DSC could tap. NanoMarkets sees this mainly as a long-term possibility, however.
• Retail applications. Point-of-scale displays such as kiosks require off-grid power which could be supplied by PV and DSC. DSC-enabled products have yet to be commercialized for this market, and improved efficiency will be key. While NanoMarkets sees significant growth in addressable capacity of DSC-enabled devices in this segment, that won’t exactly translate into a major market opportunity.