Let us commence by considering the potential market arenas in which the 'Solar Skylight' may offer value to the customers; assuming that when the 'Solar Skylight' actually materializes, it will be able to offer exactly what it promises, and that the actual hardware configurations remain the same irrespective of the industry or market in which the product will be positioned.
It is interesting to note that the solar window was born out of the photovoltaic industry. Disrupting the photovoltaic industry by allowing natural light transmission, the product that seemed as a 'transparent solar panel' made an unsuccessful entry into the construction industry. Sustaining innovations through characteristics like thermal performance, moisture/condensation and durability resulted in a snail-paced acceptance in the construction industry. The boost came from the green community development projects where the solar window saw a new market in Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV).1
Aesthetics has long been a concern of the architects in the construction industry.2 Light modulation and light uniformity have been recent customer demands, and the fact remains that solar windows are still quite expensive with the value of efficiency more or less constant. It is in the light of these arguments that the customers in this market are undershot. Customers in the solar window market don't have much choice; if they wish to buy a solar window, they don't actually have different products to choose from! Either more solar cells or fewer solar cells, and the position of these solar cells in the window seem to be the only options for the customers. This may be represented by Figure 04.
The basis of competition in the market occurs in the dimensions of cost, light transmission and power generation. Improvements occur along the same dimensions; with improvements in power generation per unit cell area yielding premium prices. For example a solar window has solar cells arranged in a 3x3 matrix. If the silicon technology improves, the same solar window may now have solar cells in two columns of 3x1 matrixes on the window edges. Due to improvements in power generation, light transmission value has been added to the window, and premium prices may be charged due to this value addition.
As per the morphology map in Figure 01, the 'Mini-CPV Solar Window' includes almost all technology components as the existing solar windows, plus sustaining performance with improved light transmission and better light modulation and light uniformity as per the strategy canvas in Figure 03. The 'Solar Skylight' as a 'Mini-CPV Solar Window' offering is thus a sustaining fit to the (roof) solar window market, leading to the S-curve in Figure 02a.
The business model of key players in the solar window industry comes from their value proposition of selling the solar windows to BIPV construction industry that need solar windows for BIPV projects to construct institutions that house many people during the day, for example: schools, museums and hospitals.3 These key players4 are growing; however, it is important to note that the growth does not come from sales of the solar windows only. These players have diversified range of products for the photovoltaic industry and many of them work on diversified renewable energies such as wind and biogas. They are motivated by the increased acceptance of their products in the BIPV industry and cumulative growth of various renewable energy markets. Although the BIPV market is huge (US$ 1.75 billion globally in 20095) and growing, and the market for solar windows is a big chunk of the BIPV market (US$ 1.00 billion globally in 20096), it must be appreciated that only some specialized photovoltaic firms manufacture the solar windows. The firm size is not only tough to estimate, but is also not a true picture of the firm size relative to the solar window market because serving the BIPV market with the solar windows is just one very small operation of the many other photovoltaic based operations of these firms. Their strengths include manufacturing and distribution of solar windows and production skills in other renewable energies. Their weaknesses include local loci of influence and venturing into other renewable energy technologies means a dilution of commitment to research and development towards a particular renewable energy. Their opportunities include government incentives to work on green technologies. They have no foreseeable threats except of competition between incumbents.
Assuming successful entry into the market, market share may be captured by introducing improved miniaturized concentration techniques to generate more power for lower costs. 'Solar Skylight' positioned to enter the market as a 'Translucent Solar Panel' will find the necessary blue ocean to enter the market and operate to grow and expand to capture market share and make appreciable profits before coming into main stream competition with the key players.
A cautious analysis of the market arenas has led to position the 'Solar Skylight' as two distinct products: the 'Mini-CPV Solar Window' in the roof solar window market for the BIPV construction customers and the 'Translucent Solar Panel' in the solar panel industry specifically for the low-end residential customers. Like all business ventures, 'Solar Skylight' would also like to evolve and capture market share.
With knowledge of blue versus read oceans, and applying tools to position products from the same technology, it is encumbrance to find the next stage of blue ocean market for the 'Solar Skylight'. The lessons learned are
Solar windows, a product of the photovoltaic industry, found tough resistance to enter the construction industry, until the 'going green' boom found BIPV as an emerging industry, causing the construction industry to embrace the solar windows.
Solar panel industry has found its most profitable customers in the government and commercial projects; this boost is causing the solar panel industry to become less concerned and gradually abandon its low-end residential customers.