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DOE awards USD 128m in solar research funding

Author: Carl Milner. License: Creative Commons, Attribution 2.0 Generic.

November 7 (Renewables Now) - A total of 75 solar research projects in 22 states will receive USD 128 million (EUR 115.5m) in funding from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to further reduce the cost of solar power, cut red tape, bring innovations in manufacturing, and boost the grid’s ability to integrate more solar generation.

The selected projects fall into five categories — photovoltaics (PV) R&D, concentrating solar power (CSP) R&D, soft costs reduction, innovations in manufacturing, and advanced solar systems integration. The funds come under the Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2019 funding program (SETO FY2019).

The lion’s share of the funding — USD 50 million — will go to 15 research projects whose goal is to improve the ability of grid operators to integrate more and more solar electricity without compromising the grid’s resilience, reliability and the security of supply. The Advanced Solar Systems Integration Technologies category also includes projects that will develop technology solutions enhancing the visibility and control of PV inverters and sensors, and reducing the risk of cyberattacks.

The projects in that category that secured the most funds have been proposed by University of Washington (A Scalable Control Architecture for 100% PV Penetration with Grid Forming Inverters) and Sandia National Laboratories (Adaptive Protection and Control for High-Penetration PV and Grid Resilience). Each will receive USD 4.9 million of DOE funds.

A total of USD 30 million in funds will be shared by 13 CSP research projects, which seek to enable solar thermal power plants to provide electricity at any time and in any season, and which support the DOE’s cost target of USD 0.05 per kWh by 2030 for CSP-generated electricity with at least 12 hours of storage. Here, the projects focus on new materials and technologies that would reduce manufacturing costs, bring new energy storage technologies on the market, and enable CSP parks to operate autonomously.  

In the CSP research category, USD 4.4 million have been awarded to Echogen Power Systems to develop a large-scale, low-cost, single-shaft compressor for supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) power cycles and energy storage systems to improve the performance of CSP.

Twenty-one PV research projects will receive USD 23.6 million in funding to cut solar PV costs by half by increasing system efficiency, reducing material and manufacturing costs, and boosting the reliability of solar equipment. One of the awardees is the University of Toledo, which will get USD 4.5 million for the development of high-efficiency perovskite mini modules and investigate deposition techniques that can be scaled up for high-speed manufacturing. The project team is partnering with First Solar Inc (NASDAQ:FSLR).

To help reduce non-hardware costs in the solar sector, the DOE announced USD 17.6 million in funds for 19 research projects. These will address red tape associated with installing solar and solar-plus-storage systems. Here, the University of California, Los Angeles will receive USD 1.6 million to improve data on bird mortality at solar parks and develop models to evaluate the risk of solar projects to specific bird populations.

The funds for Innovations in Manufacturing: Hardware Incubator amount to USD 6.8 million for 7 research projects from companies with early-stage product ideas with the potential to lower solar costs and rapidly achieve commercialisation. The focus here is on projects that support a strong US solar manufacturing sector. The companies that secured funding are Bluedot Photonics, Halo Industries, Osazda Energy, Scion Plasma, Spain.Io, Swift Coat and Terabase Energy.

(USD 1 = EUR 0.903)

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Browse all articles from Tsvetomira Tsanova

Tsvet has been following the development of the global renewable energy industry for almost nine years. She's got a soft spot for emerging markets.

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