US Energy Department: US$22.7 million for 23 solar tech projects

The U.S. Energy Department has allocated $22.7 million for 23 projects aimed at significantly reducing the costs for solar energy systems across a variety of technologies.

The new projects, developed by private-sector companies, will promote the next generation of products, services, and manufacturing processes to help accelerate the deployment and reduce the cost of solar energy across the United States, according to the Energy Department.

Among the nearly two dozen companies to win funding are:

  • Arizona-based Amtech Systems, which secured $930,664 to develop a low-cost field-effect passivation technology in partnership with the Georgia Institute of Technology to improve efficiency in advanced c-Si solar cells.
  • CelLink Corporation in California, which received $2.5 million to develop a flexible conductive backplane that will provide module manufacturers with efficiency gains and a reduction in manufacturing cost per watt.
  • Texas-based Concurrent Design, which won $1 million for its Energy Switch device that is expected to clear the path for widespread adoption of residential microgrids that feature solar plus storage.
  • Nevados Engineering in California, which secured $773,124 for its new single axis tracker that helps solar developers build projects on land that are raised and uneven.
  • California-based Sunrun, which received $900,000 to develop and commercialize the first end-to-end system for automatic permit set generation, submission, and approval. Developed in collaboration with Clean Power Research (CPR), the platform will enable residential solar project developers to automatically generate permit sets and allow them to submit these packages electronically to authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) for review and approval.

While furthering the goal of the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative to make solar energy fully cost-competitive with traditional forms of energy by 2020, the projects will also add jobs in the domestic solar industry and increase U.S. solar energy manufacturing capabilities.

“The solar energy industry has been one of the fastest growing industries in the United States for the past five years,” said David Danielson, assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “Costs are falling, deployment is booming, and factories are opening.”

As of the second quarter of 2015, total installed solar capacity in the U.S. surpassed more than 22.7 GW with some 785,000 solar projects operating across the country, Danielson added.

The Technology to Market funding program combines three separate SunShot Initiative funding programs—Incubator, Solar Manufacturing Technology (SolarMaT), and Scaling Up Nascent PV at Home (SUNPATH).

The new program supports projects with the potential to significantly reduce the costs for solar energy systems and bring disruptive innovation to the solar industry. This effort is also part of the Energy Department’s Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, aimed at boosting U.S. competitiveness and supporting the country’s clean energy manufacturing sector.

The tools, technologies, and services developed by the new projects aim to reduce the costs of various technologies, including photovoltaics; tracking systems; PV, load, and storage integration; grid monitoring; and power electronics. At the same time, the projects will also help cut soft costs related to customer acquisition, permitting, project siting, financing, interconnection and inspection.

The SunShot Initiative is currently reviewing projects for its second round of Technology to Market funding.