Energy Department Awarding Millions To Drive Solar Power Development


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced about $60 million to support solar energy research and development.

As part of the its SunShot Initiative, the DOE says these awards will help lower the cost of solar electricity, advance seamless grid integration and support a growing U.S. solar workforce.

The DOE reports it is investing more than $12 million across 17 companies to help commercialize a wide range of technologies and services – from online tools that can map a rooftop's solar potential in seconds to automated installation systems for utility-scale photovoltaic plants. For example, San Francisco-based Sunrun Inc. will receive about $1.6 million to help create an integrated system that will streamline solar project development through automatic design, costing, simulation, proposal generation, pricing, permitting and field change management.

According to the DOE, approximately $16 million will be awarded to four projects that will help develop solar devices that approach the theoretical efficiency limits of single-junction solar cells – that is, about 30% efficiency. The Georgia Institute of Technology, Arizona State University, the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are each receiving awards for this purpose.

The DOE is also awarding about $7 million to develop stronger, more reliable solar components, as well as dependable performance tests for micro-inverters and micro-converters. Sandia National Laboratories and Stanford University are among the awardees.

About $8 million will be invested to help utilities forecast and integrate high levels of renewable energy generation into the grid while ensuring reliable and affordable power, the DOE adds. For example, AWS Truepower will help California utilities feed cost-competitive distributed solar directly into the power grid, while the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association will help 150 U.S. counties deploy new solar capacity and model streamlined financing and installation processes for electric cooperatives nationwide.

Furthermore, the Energy Department says it is awarding about $15 million to develop power engineering curriculum and launch four regional training consortiums. Led by U.S. universities, utilities and industry, these consortiums will train the next generation of energy engineers, system operators and utility professionals, the DOE notes. Awardees include the Electric Power Research Institute and Missouri University of Science and Technology.

The DOE adds that about $1 million will also be awarded to Delaware State University and the University of Texas at San Antonio to provide solar energy research and education opportunities to minority students.

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