DOE Announces $105 Million Solar Funding Opportunity

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) is offering $105.5 million in funding for approximately 70 solar projects.

According to the DOE, the projects will advance both solar photovoltaic and concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) technologies, as well as facilitate the secure integration of those technologies into the nation’s electricity grid. Funding will also support efforts that prepare the workforce for the solar industry’s future needs.

“American ingenuity is the engine of our energy economy,” says Rick Perry, DOE secretary. “Investing in all of our abundant energy sources, including solar technologies, will help to drive down costs and ensure that the nation leads the world in energy production and innovation.”

The DOE says these research projects will address the earliest stages of technology development, enable significant improvements to the current fleet of solar technologies, and maintain U.S. leadership in solar energy.

The funding opportunity announcement combines all of SETO’s technology areas into one request. By creating a more streamlined and consolidated funding strategy, the DOE seeks to accelerate the cycles of learning in solar research and reduce government overhead costs.

The funding program will focus on four main areas:

1. Advanced Solar Systems Integration Technologies (up to $46 million, approximately 14 projects)

These projects will advance research on technologies that enable the integration of solar energy into the nation’s electricity grid. They will support advances in power electronics, solar-plus-storage and PV-integrated sensor technologies.

2. Concentrating Solar Power Research and Development (up to $24 million, approximately 21 projects)

These projects pursue CSP concepts and technology solutions that enable the solar industry to reach the DOE’s 2030 levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) targets for CSP, including $0.05/kWh for systems with greater than 12 hours of on-site storage. Research in CSP will focus on advancing elements found in CSP subsystems, including collectors and thermal transport systems for advanced power cycles, while pursuing new methods for introducing innovation to CSP research.

3. Photovoltaics Research and Development (up to $27 million, approximately 28 projects)

These projects support early-stage research to increase performance; reduce materials and processing costs; and improve reliability of PV cells, modules and systems. These projects support the DOE’s efforts to lower LCOE to $0.03/kWh from utility-scale systems by 2030, which is half the cost of utility-scale solar today.

4. Improving and Expanding the Solar Industry through Workforce Initiatives (up to $8.5 million, approximately four projects)

These projects will pursue initiatives that prepare the solar industry for a digital future while also increasing the number of veterans and participants in the solar industry.

Within each of the technology areas, the DOE says it will fund projects that develop and test new ways to accelerate the integration of emerging technologies into the solar industry value chain and expand private-sector engagement supporting energy innovation, especially those related to financing and commercialization.

SETO expects each of the approximately 70 awards to range between $200,000 and $4.5 million. Technical projects in topics 1-3 are required to have at least 20% cost share, yielding a total public-private investment of more than $125 million.

Prior to submitting a full application, applicants must submit a brief, mandatory concept paper by May 9 at 3:00 p.m. EST. More information on deadlines can be found here.

Speaking out in support of the funding opportunity, Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, has released the following statement:

“It is critically important that the United States maintain its global leadership in the development of advanced, high-performing solar technologies for both the photovoltaic and concentrating solar power industries. Prioritizing research and workforce development for the hundreds of thousands of Americans that solar employs is vital.

“Secretary Perry’s announcement today is yet another positive step in strengthening this important public-private relationship between the federal government and the American solar industry. We look forward to fulfilling this opportunity with innovative solar projects that drive America’s energy economy to a cleaner, more affordable and reliable future.”


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