DOE announced on September 1 that it has awarded more than $145 million for projects to help shape the next generation of solar energy technologies as part of its SunShot Initiative. Sixty-nine projects in 24 states will accelerate research and development to increase efficiency, lower costs, and advance cutting-edge technologies. The projects will also improve materials, manufacturing processes, and supply chains for a wide range of photovoltaic (PV) solar cells and components of solar energy systems. Some of these investments also support efforts that will shorten the overall timeline from prototype to production and streamline building codes, zoning laws, permitting rules, and business processes for installing solar energy systems.
Projects are in six general categories. Projects in the Extreme Balance of System Hardware Cost Reductions category will include research and development of new balance of system hardware, or solar system components including power inverters and mounting racks (but not solar panels or cells). For example, Amonix of Seal Beach, California, will develop new dual-axis tracking systems specifically for concentrating PV systems. Project in the Foundational Program to Advance Cell Efficiency category will combine both DOE and National Science Foundation resources in a joint program that aims to eliminate the significant gap between the efficiencies of prototype cells achieved in the laboratory and the efficiencies of cells produced on manufacturing lines. Solar Energy Grid Integration Systems—Advanced Concepts projects will develop electronics and build smarter, more interactive systems and components so that solar energy can be integrated into the grid at higher levels.
Transformational PV Science and Technology—Next Generation Photovoltaics II projects will fund applied research into technologies that greatly increase efficiency, lower costs, create secure and sustainable supply chains and perform more reliably than the current PV technologies. The Reducing Market Barriers and Non-Hardware Balance-of-System Costs category awards will provide funding to create tools and will develop methods to reduce the cost of non-hardware components for installed solar energy systems. And, the SunShot Incubator will fund two tiers of transformational projects for projects in California and Vermont. The first accelerates development of new technologies from concept to commercial viability. The second level of funding supports efforts that shorten the overall timeline from laboratory-scale development to pilot-line manufacture. For example, Halotechnics, in Emeryville, California, will develop a thermal energy storage system operating at 700°C using a new high-stability, low-melting-point molten salt as the heat transfer and thermal storage material for concentrating solar power applications. The SunShot Incubator program is an expansion of DOE’s PV Technology Incubator program, launched in 2007, which to date has funded $60 million in projects that have been leveraged into $1.3 billion in private investment.
The SunShot Initiative seeks to make solar energy systems more cost-competitive, without long-term subsidies, by reducing the cost of these systems about 75 percent by the end of the decade. Achievement of the SunShot Initiative goals will encourage rapid, widespread adoption of solar energy systems across the United States. See the DOE press release, the awards by state, the awards by category, and theSunShot Initiative website.