DOE awards funding to advance solar technology development

The U.S. Department of Energy on Dec. 11 announced over $13m for five projects to strengthen domestic solar manufacturing and speed commercialization of efficient, affordable photovoltaic and concentrating solar power technologies.

Part of DOE’s SunShot Initiative, these awards will help lower the cost of solar power, support a growing U.S. solar workforce and increase U.S. competitiveness in the global clean energy market.

“The strong, continued growth in the U.S. solar industry over the past few years is giving more and more Americans access to affordable clean energy,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “We have a tremendous opportunity for American manufacturing to lead the global clean energy market and help pave the way to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.”

According to a new report, the U.S. solar market continues to grow. In the third quarter of 2013, the United States installed 930 MW of photovoltaic solar, up 20% over second quarter 2013 and representing the second largest quarter in solar installations in U.S. history. Cumulatively, solar capacity has already surpassed 10 GW and by the end of the year more than 400,000 solar projects will be operating across the country.

To ensure America’s continued leadership position in clean energy, President Obama has set a goal to double renewable electricity generation once again by 2020.

Matched by over $14m in private cost share, the Energy Department’s investment will help five companies develop cost-effective manufacturing processes for photovoltaic and concentrating solar power technologies.

For example, Colorado-based Abengoa Solar will develop new methods to produce concentrating solar power trough systems, helping to lower overall production costs and support easy and quick on-site assembly. PPG Industries, headquartered in Pennsylvania, will lead a project to cut solar module manufacturing costs in half, while Georgia-based Suniva will develop a low-cost highly efficient silicon photovoltaic cell.

The SunShot Solar Manufacturing Technology (SolarMat) program funds the development of innovative manufacturing technologies that can achieve a significant market impact in one to four years. Launched in September 2013, the SolarMat program is supporting five projects working in two topic areas: photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP).

The awards went to:

  • Abengoa Solar, DOE amount $1,943,463, private cost share $1,943,463 – Abengoa Solar will demonstrate new manufacturing and assembly technologies for use in CSP parabolic trough systems to achieve cost reduction and also to enable innovative technology to quickly enter the market. This project will focus on highly-automated manufacture of trough components, on-site assembly of the troughs at the solar field and improved quality control using automated inspection.
  • PPG Industries, DOE amount $2,148,729, private cost share $2,148,733 – PPG will partner with Flextronics International to design and pilot a rapid PV module assembly process that replaces labor-intensive steps with automation. This approach is expected to increase the rate of module production by a factor of four, cut capital costs in half, and reduce barriers delaying the implementation of next-generation PV technologies that increase module efficiency and reduce costs.
  • Solaria Corp., DOE amount $2,007,474, private cost share $3,011,211 – Solaria will cut costs for its low-concentration silicon PV module by automating manufacturing process steps. This removes a primary barrier to enabling Solaria’s high-volume PV module manufacturing in the United States.
  • SolarWorld Industries America, DOE amount $2,438,126, private cost share $2,461,316 – SolarWorld will incorporate an advanced light management system into their PV modules that will achieve substantial efficiency improvements at little extra cost. The system reduces optical losses and represents a large, unrealized opportunity for module efficiency improvements. The SolarWorld approach cost-effectively utilizes low-cost components implemented using highly automated robotic systems.
  • Suniva Inc., DOE amount $4,499,678, private cost share $4,918,986 – Suniva, in partnership with the Georgia Institute of Technology, will deploy a low-cost highly efficient silicon PV cell technology that will reach the marketplace within three years and which meets the SunShot 2020 target of ≤ $0.50/W module cost. This effort will overcome cost and efficiency barriers through advances in PV science and technology innovation involving new process tools, resulting in pilot production of 21.5% efficient cells.
About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.