Integrated PV Designs Targeted by DOE

March 09, 2006 by Jeff Shepard

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Notice of Program Interest (NOPI) to advance the Solar America Initiative (SAI). To fulfill solar energy's promise, the Advanced Energy Initiative and the President's 2007 Budget proposes a new $148 million SAI, an increase of $65 million over the FY06 budget. The SAI will accelerate the development of advanced photovoltaic (PV) materials that convert sunlight directly to electricity, with the goal of making PV cost-competitive with other forms of renewable electricity by 2015.

The overall goal of the SAI is to achieve market competitiveness for photovoltaic (PV) solar electricity by 2015. According to the DOE, achieving that goal will result in PV provides 5 - 10 GW of electric capacity in 2015 (equivalent to the amount of electricity needed to power 1 - 2 million homes); avoiding 10 million metric tons per year of CO2 emissions; and employing 30,000 new workers in the PV industry.

The new SAI represents a shift in how the Solar Program does business in photovoltaics.

Pre-SAI the emphasis was on PV research and development (R&D) with a goal of reducing costs through breakthroughs and incremental technology improvements.

With the advent of the SAI the emphasis has shifted to funding industry partnerships to accelerate market-ready PV using aggressive new goals, down-selects, and a new focus on eliminating manufacturing and production R&D barriers.

This NOPI has the potential to lead to new funding opportunities for research and development on; New solar component technologies, Manufacturing processes for components, and Integrated PV system designs. Efforts should focus on research that has the best chance at making PV-generated electricity cost-competitive by the 2015 goal in these 3 areas. DOE will also develop a technology acceptance strategy to address marketplace barriers and challenges such as capital cost and public awareness of solar energy's benefits.

DOE will convene a Technical Exchange Meeting to facilitate contributions to planning for the SAI in Chicago, IL in mid-April 2006. This meeting will be open to organizations on a space-limited basis.