In the Department of Energy’s latest move to help foster the next generation of solar technologies and strengthen the US position in the field, more than $145 million will be allocated for 69 projects in 24 states in a variety of disciplines as part of DOE’s SunShot Initiative. Funded through the department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, DOE hopes the projects will accelerate R&D to increase efficiency, lower costs, advance cutting-edge technologies, as well as improve materials, manufacturing processes and supply chains for a wide range of photovoltaic cells and components of solar energy systems. Some 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.
The SunShot Initiative seeks to make solar energy systems more cost-competitive, without long-term subsidies, by reducing systems costs about 75% by 2020, thus encouraging the rapid, widespread adoption of solar power systems across the country.
The new awards will target improvements across the R&D and demonstration pipeline, from next-generation technologies 7-10 years away from commercial readiness, to scientific and technological improvements that can be rapidly implemented within 5 years.
The six categories of projects announced are as follows:
- Extreme Balance of System Hardware Cost Reductions – Nine projects to receive $42 million. These projects will conduct R&D of new balance of system (BOS) hardware or system components, including inverters and mounting racks but excluding panels or cells, that are inexpensive, safe, and highly reliable. BOS accounts for more than 40% of the total installed cost of PV systems and represents a major opportunity to achieve significant cost reductions.
- Foundational Program to Advance Cell Efficiency – 18 projects to receive $35.8 million. Combining both the technical and funding resources of DOE and the National Science Foundation, 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. The projects under this award address cost and efficiency barriers, advance fundamental PV cell research, and develop materials and processes for more efficient, cost-effective photovoltaic cells.
- Solar Energy Grid Integration Systems: Advanced Concepts – Eight projects to receive $25.9 million. These projects will develop electronics and build smarter, more interactive systems and components so that solar energy can be integrated into the electric power distribution and transmission grid at higher levels. These technologies will help advance a smart grid that will handle two-way flows of power and communication, in contrast to the one-way power flow and limited communication that exists today.
- Transformational PV Science and Technology: Next Generation Photovoltaics II – 23 projects to receive $22.2 million. These awards 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. Investing in new classes of photovoltaic technology feeds the industry with the new innovations it will need to compete in the future and will help achieve the goals of the SunShot Initiative.
- Reducing Market Barriers and NonHardware Balance of System Costs – Seven projects to receive $13.6 million. These awards will provide funding to create tools and develop methods to reduce the cost of nonhardware components for installed solar energy systems. These projects will develop 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. 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. The SunShot Incubator Program is an expansion of DOE's successful 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.