U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu has formally announced a $50 million investment over two years for the SUNPATH program, which aims to help the nation reclaim its competitive edge in solar manufacturing.
SUNPATH (Scaling Up Nascent PV At Home) represents the DOE's second solar photovoltaic manufacturing initiative, supporting the department's SunShot Initiative.
Minh Le, principal scientist at the DOE, provided the industry's first glimpse of the program last month, during a presentation at the Intersolar North America conference.
As recently as 1995, the U.S. maintained a dominant global solar market share, manufacturing 43% of the world's PV panels, according to the DOE. U.S. market share shrank to 27% by 2000 and 7% by 2010.
SUNPATH will help companies with pilot-scale commercial production scale up their manufacturing capabilities, enabling them to overcome a funding gap that often curtails domestic business at a critical stage. By bridging this gap, SUNPATH will help ensure that innovative, low-cost solar technologies are manufactured in the U.S., the DOE says.
The DOE is now seeking applicants with industrial-scale demonstrations of PV modules, cells or substrates that offer lower-cost solutions in line with the SunShot goal. Applications are due by Oct. 28. More information and application requirements can be found here.