The US Department of Energy (DOE) will send more than $145 million to dozens of projects across the country focused on speeding up advances in solar energy technologies.
Funding will go to 69 projects in 24 states aimed at increasing efficiency, lowering costs and improving materials, manufacturing processes and supply chains for photovoltaic (PV) solar cells and other solar-energy-related components. Some of the money will also be used to support efforts to shorten the overall timeline from prototype to production and streamline building codes, zoning laws, permitting rules and business processes for installing solar energy systems.
The investment is part of the DOE’s SunShot Initiative, which has the goal of reducing the cost of solar energy systems by about 75 percent by the end of the decade. The funding targets everything from improvements that can be rapidly implemented within five years to development of next-generation technologies that are still seven to 10 years away from commercial readiness.
Six categories of projects are set to receive DOE funds:
- Extreme balance-of-system (BOS) hardware cost reductions – Nine projects to receive $42 million. These projects will conduct research and development of new balance-of-system (BOS) hardware (power inverters, mounting racks, etc.) that is inexpensive, safe, and reliable. BOS hardware currently accounts for more than 40 percent of the total installed cost of solar energy systems.
- Foundational program to advance cell efficiency – Eighteen projects to receive $35.8 million. This joint program will support research 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) – Eight projects to receive $25.9 million. These projects will seek to develop electronics and smarter, more interactive systems and components so solar energy can be integrated into the electric power distribution and transmission grid at higher levels.
- Transformational PV science and technology: (next-generation photovoltaics II) – Twenty-three projects to receive $22.2 million. These awards will fund applied research into technologies to increase efficiency, lower costs, create secure and sustainable supply chains and perform more reliably than the current PV technologies.
- Reducing market barriers and non-hardware balance-of-system costs – Seven projects to receive $13.6 million. These projects aim to create tools and develop methods to reduce the cost of non-hardware components for installed solar energy systems. These include software design tools and databases that can be used by local jurisdictions and installers, and tools to streamline building codes, zoning laws, permitting rules and business processes for installing solar systems.
- SunShot Incubator – Four projects to receive $5.8 million. These projects will fund two different tiers of transformational projects: one to accelerate development of new technologies from concept to commercial viability, the second to shorten the overall timeline from laboratory-scale development to pilot line manufacture.