DARPA Funds Solar Power Technology for Military

November 22, 2005 by Jeff Shepard

A consortium led by the University of Delaware (UD) announced that it could receive nearly $53 million in funding — with the bulk of the money coming from the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA, Arlington, VA) — to more than double the efficiency of terrestrial solar cells within the next 50 months. The technology hopes to bring solar energy for soldiers on the battlefield. It is also aimed for commercial applications as well. The University’s Consortium for Very High Efficiency Solar Cells (VHESC),, which consists of 15 universities, corporations and laboratories, could receive up to $33.6 million from DARPA, if all options are awarded, and another $19.3 million from UD and corporate team members.

The DARPA program calls upon the consortium to develop and produce 1,000 VHESC prototypes that are affordable and that operate at efficiencies of at least 50 percent. Currently, high-end solar cells operate at a peak efficiency of 24.7 percent, and solar cells off the production line operate at 15 percent to 20 percent efficiency. The consortium’s goal is to create solar cells that operate at about 54 percent efficiency in the laboratory and 50 percent in production. The VHESC would have immediate application in the military, which increasingly relies upon a variety of electronics for individual soldiers and the equipment that supports them. As well, it is expected the solar cells will have a large number of commercial applications.