NREL invests US$12 million in early stage solar development

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The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will invest up to US$12 million in total funding in four companies to support the development of early stage solar energy technologies and help them advance to full commercial scale. The money will go towards expanding the U.S. clean energy economy and the development of solar energy as a more cost-competitive source of electricity.

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced this investment on January 21. “Expanding the solar power industry in the U.S. can create new jobs, reduce carbon pollution and save consumers money,” he said. “By partnering with NREL, these companies will be able to gain from their expertise, accelerate the pace of innovation and help get technologies to market faster.”

Companies awarded under the DOE’s Photovoltaic Incubator Program will work with NREL to transition prototype and pre-commercial PV technologies into pilot and full-scale manufacturing. The anticipated subcontracts will be up to US$3 million each and will be awarded as 18-month phased subcontracts with payment made upon completion of project milestones.

The DOE is investing more than US$117 million through the Recovery Act to develop and deploy solar energy technologies. 

The partnership projects announced include:

California

Alta Devices, Inc. (Santa Clara, CA) up to $3 million
Alta Devices will focus efforts on developing an innovative high-efficiency (>20%), low-cost compound-semiconductor photovoltaic module, with market entry expected in 2011.

Solar Junction (San Jose, CA) up to $3 million
Solar Junction will develop a manufacturing process to produce a very high efficiency multi-junction cell.  These high performing cells will be utilized by concentrating PV (CPV) manufacturers to produce lower cost CPV systems.

Tetra Sun (Saratoga, CA) up to $3 million
Tetra Sun will focus efforts on a back surface passivation for high efficiency crystalline silicon solar cells. This effort will result in a high efficiency low-cost C-Si solar cell.

North Carolina

Semprius (Durham, NC) up to $3 million
Semprius will focus efforts towards a massively parallel, microcell-based CPV receiver. This approach combines the benefits of unique-to-solar manufacturing techniques with the performance and operational benefits of microcell concentrating photovoltaics.

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