Department of Energy to Invest up to $12 Million to Support Early Stage Solar Technologies

January 21, 2010 by Jeff Shepard

The U.S. Department of Energy announced that the Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will invest up to $12 million in total funding – $10 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act– in four companies to support the development of early stage solar energy technologies and help them advance to full commercial scale. The goal of this effort is to help further expand a clean energy economy and make solar energy more cost-competitive with conventional forms of electricity.

"Expanding the solar power industry in the United States can create new jobs, reduce carbon pollution, and save consumers money," said Secretary Steven Chu. "By partnering with NREL, these companies will be able to gain from their expertise, accelerate the pace of innovation and help get technologies to market faster."

Companies awarded under DOE’s Photovoltaic Incubator Program will work with NREL to transition prototype and pre-commercial PV technologies into pilot and full-scale manufacturing. The anticipated subcontracts, up to $3 million each, will be awarded as 18-month phased subcontracts with payment made upon completion of project milestones.

Through the Recovery Act, the DOE is investing more than $117 million in developing and deploying solar energy technologies. While supporting cutting edge research and development on photovoltaics and concentrated solar power at the national laboratories, the Department is also making significant investments in training solar systems installers, supporting the growth of grid-tied solar photovoltaic systems, and the use of solar energy in U.S. cities.

The partnership projects (each up to $3 million) announced include:

Alta Devices, Inc. will focus efforts on developing an innovative high-efficiency (>20%), low-cost compound-semiconductor photovoltaic module, with market entry expected in 2011.

Solar Junction Corp. will develop a manufacturing process to produce a very high efficiency multi-junction cell. These high performing cells will be utilized by concentrating PV (CPV) manufacturers to produce lower cost CPV systems.

Tetra Sun will focus efforts on a back surface passivation for high efficiency crystalline silicon solar cells. This effort will result in a high efficiency low-cost C-Si solar cell.

Semprius, Inc. will focus efforts towards a massively parallel, microcell-based CPV receiver. This approach combines the benefits of unique-to-solar manufacturing techniques with the performance and operational benefits of microcell concentrating photovoltaics.