U.S. Energy Dept. Funds Projects To Advance Solar Tech

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has announced a total of $11 million for 16 projects intended to develop innovative, early-stage solutions in both photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP).

According to the DOE, 10 of the awardees are small-scale research and development (R&D) projects designed to push the limits of PV technologies, potentially advancing the new cell and module architectures, efficiency, energy output, service lifetime, and manufacturability. These awardees will be funded under the Small Innovative Projects in Solar (SIPS) program developed to support progress toward leveling the cost of solar electricity to approximately $0.02/kWh to $0.03/kWh by 2030.

The small, early-stage PV projects will receive nearly $2 million to demonstrate the potential for expanded work in novel or emerging areas of PV research. The DOE says these first-of-their-kind, single-year projects in the SunShot Initiative’s PV R&D portfolio are designed to allow researchers to test a concept and, if successful, develop data to support further research. This approach allows researchers to take a year to demonstrate that their ideas merit greater investment in the future.

The other six awardees are CSP R&D projects focused on the most expensive component of a CSP plant, the collectors, and aim to make dramatic performance improvements and cost reductions.

The Concentrating Optics for Lower Levelized Energy Costs (COLLECTS) program targets a more ambitious cost-to-efficiency metric for CSP collectors than what was set forward in the 2020 SunShot targets. According to the DOE, solar collectors currently account for up to 40% of the total plant cost and are the largest capital cost component of a CSP plant. These six CSP awards through SunShot’s COLLECTS program total nearly $9 million dedicated to the design and manufacture of lower-cost solar collectors, which could in turn reduce the overall cost of a CSP power plant.

Since its launch in 2011, the SunShot Initiative has been focused on driving down the cost of utility-scale solar to $0.06/kWh by 2020, without subsidy. These new programs, developed within the SunShot Initiative, provide a framework for post-2020 technical and cost-reduction goals.

For more information on the DOE’s SunShot Initiative and what it has accomplished in its first five years, check out the cover story of Solar Industry’s July 2016 issue here.




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