The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has been steadily working for the promotion of solar energy in the U.S. and recently announced its newest solar promotion, the SunShot initiative, which aims to reduce the total cost of PV solar energy systems by 75% in order to be more cost competitive. The announcement of its new initiative was followed by news of a US$20.3 million investment in technologies that aim to improve the country’s solar manufacturing industry, its efficiency and costs.
To further promote the DOE’s commitment towards improvement of the solar industry in the United States, the agency has released a new US$7 million investment in the latest round of its PV Solar Incubator Program. The program sees the DOE help the development and commercialization of promising emerging solar technologies by curbing the timeline from pre-commercial and prototype stage PV technologies to pilot and full-scale manufacturing operations.
This is the fourth investment the DOE has made in the PV Solar Incubator Program and, in this latest round, picked four California-based companies in one of two categories. Companies chosen in the Tier I category support the development of commercially-viable technology prototypes and will receive US$1 million over a one-year period. The company in the Tier II category will receive up to US$4 million over 18 months to develop and expand its pilot stage manufacturing process.
Tier I project recipients include:
Caelux: this Pasadena-based company is developing a flexible solar cell manufacturing process and design that is said to reduce the amount of semiconducting material used, which holds the potential to improve the device efficiency while also reducing production costs.
Solexant: currently Solexant is working on a new thin-film material from substances that are not only non-toxic, but also not denoted as “rare”. The devices will be built with a nanoparticle ink that can be printed and produce commercially-feasible efficiencies with scalable, low-cost processes.
Stion: based out of San Jose, Stion is working on a thin-film technology that allows two high-efficiency thin-film solar devices to be stacked. The company notes that this would lead to better absorption of light and power generation since the device is built in such a way that it decreases cost, simplifies manufacturing and lessens materials utilization when compared to more common designs.
The Tier II project was solely awarded to Crystal Solar who is cultivating a new technology for the fabrication, handling, processing and packing of thin single-crystal silicon wafers. The wafers are said to be four times thinner than standard cells and allow for the use of less silicon thereby reducing the wafer processing steps that can become not only expensive, but wasteful.
Funding for the projects is subject to negotiation and is to be issued through the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.