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3 October 2008


Solar America Initiative awards second round of PV Incubator funding

In support of the Solar America Initiative (which aims to make solar energy cost-competitive with conventional forms of electricity by 2015), the US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced a second round of funding for its photovoltaic (PV) incubator project (following first-round awards in June 2007, and announcement of the second-round funding opportunity at the beginning of March). Funded through the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), projects focus on developing prototype PV components and systems and barriers to entry for 2010 commercialization. Awards target R&D of PV systems and component prototypes with full functionality, produced in pilot-scale operations. Prototype technologies are expected to have already completed proof-of-concept for new manufacturing processes, either through contractor equipment, the NREL Process Development and Integration Laboratory facilities, or other appropriate facilities.

Out of the ten 2007 Phase I awardees, seven have been selected for continued funding via 2008 Phase II awards (lasting 9-months, like the Phase I awards). Alongside silicon- and organic-based PV firms, these include copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) PV firm SoloPower of Milpitas, CA; cadmium telluride (CdTe) PV module makers AVA Solar of Fort Collins, CO and PrimeStar Solar of Golden, CO; and III-V based PV cell maker MicroLink Devices of Niles, IL and concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) system maker SolFocus of Palo Alto, CA.

In addition, up to $17.6m is to be granted in 2008 Phase I awards (lasting 9-months) for six early-stage photovoltaic (PV) module incubator projects, focusing on the initial manufacturing of advanced PV technologies.

The 2008 Phase I awards will help to accelerate the time it takes for innovative start-up companies to get their technologies to market, says John Mizroch, acting assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Companies will seek to accelerate the time it takes to move PV technologies from laboratory demonstration into pilot production, and to reduce the cost, improve performance and expand the manufacturing capacity of PV modules. The awards aim to help fill the commercialization pipeline with advanced solar technologies and bring a new generation of PV product suppliers into the marketplace.

Upon negotiation of their subcontracts through NREL, the six companies selected include five firms focusing on silicon-based photovoltaic technology as well as up to $2.97m for the foundry Spire Semiconductor of Hudson, NH, USA (with a $743,000 cost share raising the total to $3.7m for the project). Spire plans to develop three-junction tandem concentrator solar cells by growing differentiated bi-facial cells on a gallium arsenide substrate. This approach should allow Spire to better optimize the optical properties of their device layers to better match the solar spectrum. Spire is targeting solar cell conversion efficiencies of more than 42% using a low-cost manufacturing method. Target annual production is 3-50MW after 18 months and potentially 100-250MW in 2012.

See related items:

PVs to grow to 20% of SC GaAs market in 2012

NREL sets solar cell efficiency record of 40.8%

Search: Photovoltaics SAI CIGS CdTe III-V PV cell GaAs substrate AVA Solar NREL PrimeStar SolFocus SoloPower Spire Semiconductor