US DOE pledges US$170 million for advancement of solar PV technology

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The United States Department of Energy (DOE) has unveiled its latest investment in its SunShot Initiative with Energy Secretary Steven Chu publicizing the nearly US$170 million that will be made available over three years for the advancement of solar PV technologies. As the DOE’s SunShot program looks to reduce the total cost of energy systems by 75% before 2020, this latest investment will help further its goal by supporting four areas of investment, which include:  the improvement of efficiency and performance in solar cells, creating new installation, or balance of system, technologies, progressing solar energy grid integration and researching new materials and processes for solar PV technologies.

The DOE looks for advancements in the four investment areas to overall help better the performance of PV installations while diminishing their costs. The funding will focus on four specific areas of PV technology: the foundational program to advance cell efficiency (F-PACE), PV balance of systems, solar energy grid integration systems (SEGIS)-advanced concepts and PV next generation.

Under the F-PACE program, the DOE has partnered in a funding effort with the National Science Foundation to offer US$39 million for the research and development in solar device physics and PV technology that will improve PV cell performance and cut the costs of modules for grid-scale commercial applications.

US$60 million will be available for R&D, development and demonstration of balance of system components. Projects in this area can include new BIPV products, new mounting and wiring technologies and new building code language that uses state-of-the-art hardware designs while preserving safety and reliability.

The SEGIS-advanced concepts area will have US$40 million in funding available for the development of technologies that augment the integration of solar energy onto the electrical grid and expedites interaction between solar energy systems and smart gird technologies. Projects can include enriched energy storage technologies and better system functionality. Additionally, the SEGIS-advance concepts division will provide for projects such as high voltage systems that reduce the overall installed costs that come with balance of systems components costs for installations and projects that center around technologies like micro-inverters that can gather more energy from the sun.

The remaining US$30 million in funding will go towards early-stage applied research that displays and validates new concepts in materials, processes and device designs for solar PV component development at the laboratory level.

Energy Secretary Chu commented on the new investment, stating, “These investments will drive innovation in the solar energy field – laying the groundwork to meet our SunShot goal of dramatically reducing the cost of solar energy nationwide and helping America to win the race to produce the most cost-effective, high-quality photovoltaics in the world. A robust American solar industry will boost our technological leadership and competitiveness, improve the nation's energy security, create skilled manufacturing jobs, and help reach the President's goal of doubling our clean energy in the next 25 years.”

Information regarding application requirements for each funding opportunity can be viewed here.

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