Today there are multiple devices available for harnessing solar energy. Each device offers a different set of characteristics. Wafer-based devices consist of mono or polycrystalline and are the most mature technology due to the experience borrowed from the microelectronics industry.
They also offer very competitive production costs (<1 $/W) and long lifetimes (25+ years guaranteed but most likely operational into 35+ years). Currently, they hold approximately 80% of the total market share of photovoltaics. Looking at the non-wafer based portion of the market, IDTechEx estimate that the organic photovoltaics (OPV) market today is $4.6 million and forecast that it will rise to $630 million in 2022. These findings are included in a new IDTechEx report, "Organic Photovoltaics: Technologies, Markets & Players 2012-2022".
As can be seen in the radar graph above, organic photovoltaics do not offer very high efficiency levels or lifetime, two issues that can be very limiting handicaps. Instead, OPVs can offer good form factor, high-indoor performance, large-scale manufacture, and low capital expenditure.
The efficiency and lifetime impediments in organic photovoltaics have been thoroughly studied by IDTechEx, with input from all of the leading developers of the technology. Analysis suggests that no breakthrough in technology is expected to occur and improvements take place slowly and linearly in time. This holds true in spite of the fact that a diverse range of active materials can be envisioned and synthesized for use in OPV cells. This suggests that OPVs will struggle to outperform more established technologies of today. This is because, for example, crystalline silicon already offers 16-18% efficiency in production volumes, and lifetime in excess of 25 years.