The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office focuses on achieving the goals of the SunShot Initiative, which seeks to drive down the cost of solar electricity and support solar adoption through research and development efforts in collaboration with public and private partners.
Since the SunShot Initiative was announced in February 2011, the office has funded more than 350 projects in the opportunity areas for the Small Business Vouchers Pilot.
The Small Business Vouchers Pilot and the DOE national labs can help energy enterprises invent and implement cutting edge innovation. The labs' expertise can be leveraged to reduce or remove technical and/or logistical barriers to solar development, improve systems cost-competitiveness and enhance U.S.-based manufacturing and assembly capabilities. Each application to the Small Business Vouchers Pilot must align with one of the four following topic areas and include a technology to market approach in order to ensure the outcome(s) of the proposed work support the overall mission of the SunShot Initiative.
The SunShot Initiative supports the following voucher opportunity areas:
The photovoltaics (PV) subprogram funds research and development that is critical to continued advancement in solar cell and module technology. These advances lower costs, increase efficiencies, and improve reliability to support the widespread deployment of electricity produced directly from sunlight. Applications which demonstrate high impact research and expertise in the development of PV materials, new characterization methodologies, and improvements in module materials and assembly are encouraged. These pages provide more information about key photovoltaic technologies:
- Crystalline Silicon
- Cadmium telluride (CdTe)
- Copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS)
- Earth-abundant materials
- Hybrid organic-inorganic halide perovskite
- Multijunction (III-V)
Balance of system (BOS) or "soft" costs such as permitting, financing, installation, customer acquisition, and maintenance currently represent the majority of solar energy costs. SunShot addresses these costs by supporting projects that reduce the costs of permitting and interconnection, increase information sharing, train the next generation of the solar workforce, and reduce cost of capital through business model innovation. DOE's national laboratories have specialized capabilities and tools to research soft cost topics through solar performance modeling, financing models, experience with permitting processes, an understanding of interconnection processes, and knowledge of current operations and maintenance practices. Examples of these capabilities include Sandia National Laboratories solar photovoltaics rooftop structural research, which may improve structural engineering review of roofs for solar installations, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Solar Access to Public Capital working group.
The Systems integration (SI) program seeks to enable the widespread deployment of safe, reliable, and cost-effective solar energy on the nation's electricity grid by addressing BOS hardware, forecasting, and solar grid integration challenges. The anticipated proliferation of solar power at both the utility and distributed scales emphasizes the need for timely and cost-effective interconnection procedures, accurate prediction of solar resources, and monitoring and control of solar power. Moreover, the impact of solar energy on the performance and reliability of transmission and distribution power systems is becoming a larger challenge. To proactively anticipate and address potential challenges under a scenario in which hundreds of gigawatts (GW) of solar energy are interconnected to the electricity grid, the SI program has identified the challenges to be addressed in four broad, inter-related areas:
- Grid performance and reliability: Maintain and enhance the efficiency and reliability of electric transmission and distribution systems in a cost-effective, safe manner with hundreds of GW of solar generation deployed onto the nation's power system
- Dispatchability: Ensure that solar power is available on-demand, when and where it is needed and at the desired amounts, in a manner that is comparable to or better than conventional power plants
- Power electronics: Develop intelligent devices that maximize the power output from PV panels and interface with the electric grid (or end use circuits), while ensuring overall system performance, safety, reliability and controllability at minimum cost
- Communications: Create infrastructure that is used to inform, monitor, and control generation, transmission, distribution, and consumption of solar energy effectively under broad temporal and spatial scales
Technology to Market
SunShot accelerates the adoption of solar energy technologies in the marketplace. In support of SunShot goals, the solar office partners with manufacturers, communities, universities, utilities, and other stakeholders to:
- Develop new manufacturing capabilities for US manufacturing
- Reduce hardware and non-hardware costs
- Lower barriers to solar deployment
- Foster growth in the deployment of solar technology
These focus areas serve to grow U.S. manufacturing of solar technologies, increase solar technology deployment, and reduce the cost of capital for solar technologies.
Specific topic of interest within these broader categories include innovations in solar technology manufacturing, development of tools that reduce the cost of customer acquisition, and technologies/methodologies that optimize the use of solar and energy storage.
Concentrating Solar Power
The SunShot concentrating solar power (CSP) program funds research and development within the industry, national laboratories, and universities to achieve the technical and economic targets for the following CSP component technologies:
- Power block
- Thermal storage
- Systems analysis
Sandia National Laboratory's National Solar Thermal Test Facility and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's CSP testing facilities have unique capabilities to test prototype new CSP technologies.