AES Semigas


20 May 2024

US investing $71m to advance US solar manufacturing and development

As part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, the US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced a $71m investment (including $16m from the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) in research, development and demonstration projects to grow the network of domestic manufacturers across the US solar energy supply chain.

The selected projects will address gaps in the domestic solar manufacturing capacity supply chain, including equipment, silicon ingots and wafers, and both silicon and thin-film solar cell manufacturing. The projects will also open new markets for solar technologies such as dual-use photovoltaic (PV) applications, including building-integrated PV and agrivoltaics.

These efforts complement and strengthen the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal to rapidly deploy clean energy to help achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to building an American-made solar supply chain that boosts innovation, drives down costs for families, and delivers jobs across the nation,” says US Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.

Silicon Solar Manufacturing and Dual-Use Photovoltaics Incubator funding program

DOE selected three projects for the Silicon Solar Manufacturing and Dual-Use Photovoltaics Incubator funding program, which will support the development of technologies to bring silicon wafer and cell manufacturing onshore. This investment will enable new solar companies to prove out their technologies, with the goal of becoming eligible to apply for capital to scale-up manufacturing, accelerating their path to commercialization.

Seven additional projects will advance dual-use PV technologies to harness their potential to electrify buildings, decarbonize the transportation sector, and reduce land-use conflicts. 

The ten selected projects are: 

  • Re:Build Manufacturing (Nashua, NH): $1.9m;
  • Silfab Solar Cells (Fort Mill, SC): $5m;
  • Ubiquity Solar (Hazelwood, MO): $11.2m;
  • Appalachian Renewable Power (Stewart, OH): $1.6m;
  • GAF Energy (San Jose, CA): $1.6m;
  • Noria Energy Holdings (Sausalito, CA): $1.6m;
  • RCAM Technologies (Boulder, CO): $600,000;
  • The R&D Lab (Petaluma, CA): $1m;
  • Silfab Solar WA(Bellingham, WA): $400,000;
  • Wabash (Lafayette, IN): $1.6m.

Funding for program ‘Advancing US Thin-Film Solar Photovoltaics’

Thin-film PV technologies, such as cadmium telluride (CdTe) and perovskites, have potential advantages over incumbent silicon technology, such as less energy-intensive manufacturing, lower manufacturing costs, simpler supply chains, and greater lifetime energy yield.

Of the eight projects that the DOE has selected for the Advancing US Thin-Film Solar Photovoltaics funding program, four will address opportunities to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and bolster the supply chain for CdTe systems.

DOE’s Solar Photovoltaics Supply Chain Review identified CdTe as an opportunity to expand domestic production of solar panels. Improving the ability to use and recover materials efficiently when building and recycling panels is a promising approach to strengthen domestic CdTe PV competitiveness.

Four other projects will prove out innovative tandem PV devices that pair established PV technologies like silicon and copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) with perovskite thin-film PV technology that is nearing market readiness and could be manufactured in the USA. One project leverages the USA’s trade partnership with Canada to increase the supply of tellurium in the USA.

The selected projects are: 

  • First Solar (Tempe, AZ and Perrysburg, OH): $6m;
  • Cubic PV (Bedford, MA): $6m;
  • Tandem PV (San Jose, CA): $4.7m;
  • Swift Solar (San Carlos, CA): $7m;
  • 5N Plus (Montreal, Canada): $1.6m;
  • First Solar (Tempe, AZ and Perrysburg, OH): $15m;
  • Brightspot Automation(Boulder, CO): $1.6m;
  • Tau Science (Redwood City, CA): $2.1m.

Details of ‘Advancing US Thin-Film Solar Photovoltaics’ program

The Advancing US Thin-Film Solar Photovoltaics funding program awards $44m for research, development, and demonstration projects on two major thin-film photovoltaic (PV) technologies. Projects aim to help to enable domestic manufacturing of affordable solar hardware, increase the portion of solar hardware value kept in the US economy, and promote American leadership of thin-film PV technologies.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) announced the funding opportunity on 12 September 2023 and announced selections on 16 May.

Projects will de-risk tandem thin-film technologies that include perovskite materials. Projects will also support innovation in cadmium telluride (CdTe) production by improving efficiency and reducing costs, making CdTe systems more affordable and improving competitiveness of the domestic CdTe industry. Advancement of thin-film technologies presents an opportunity to strengthen the domestic solar supply chain and reduce reliance on foreign imports. 

This funding program supports an equitable transition to a decarbonized electricity system by 2035 and facilitates secure, robust and reliable integration of solar electricity into the nation’s energy grid.


Topic 1: Promoting Research & Development toward Industrial Manufacturing of Early-Stage Perovskite Tandem Photovoltaics (PRIMES Perovskite Tandem PV)

  • Cubic PV (Bedford, MA): $6m (plus $1.5m awardee cost share) for project ‘Scaling Perovskite-Silicon Tandems Toward Reliable Commercial Product’ (principal investigator: Adam Lorenz). This project aims to design perovskite-silicon tandem PV modules that can be fabricated using robust manufacturing methods and remain durable after exposure to heat and light. The team will use a four-terminal device configuration, which allows for optimization of the perovskite device layer without changing the silicon layer. By closely monitoring the devices throughout the perovskite layer fabrication process, the team can quickly and specifically identify the effects of any changes and ensure the final process will create reproducible, durable devices.
  • First Solar (Perrysburg, OH): $6m (plus $1.5m awardee cost share) for project ‘High‐Performance Tandem Modules Based on Wide‐bandgap FAPbI3 Perovskites and Narrow‐bandgap CI(G)S Bottom Cells’ (principal investigator: Le Chen). This project aims to design tandem perovskite and copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) PV modules with 27% efficiency that can be easily manufactured. The team will maximize the efficiency of the perovskite layer and optimize the properties of the CIGS layer to best complement the perovskite layer. They will also scale up these devices from mini-module size and perform durability tests to ensure that these devices are stable over time and practical to manufacture. 
  • Swift Solar (San Carlos, CA): $7m (plus $1.8m awardee cost share) for project ‘PIPPIN: Perovskite-Silicon Tandem Solar Cells from Prototype to Production’ (principal investigator: Rohit Prasanna). This project is developing durable, high-efficiency perovskite-silicon tandem PV modules where the perovskite layer is fabricated using vapor deposition, a promising method for high-volume manufacturing. The team will incorporate measurements throughout the manufacturing process to improve process control and reproducibility while testing the durability of their modules to ensure that they can reliably operate for decades in the field.
  • Tandem PV (San Jose, CA): $4.7m (plus $2m awardee cost share) for project ‘STACKED: Stability and Characterization of Hole-Transporting Layers Key to Enabling Outdoor Durability’ (principal investigator: Colin Bailie). Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun can cause significant damage to perovskite PV devices, but existing simulated outdoor durability testing does not adequately account for its effects. This project aims to engineer new layers to add into perovskite PV devices that can filter out UV light and increase durability under high temperatures. The team will perform enhanced durability testing on tandem perovskite-silicon devices with these new layers to ensure that they are stable and retain their high efficiency in outdoor conditions. 

Topic 2: Improving the Market Potential of Advanced Cadmium Telluride Photovoltaics (IMPACdTe PV) 

  • 5N Plus (Montreal, Quebec): $1.6m (plus $0.4m awardee cost share) for project ‘Upstream Extraction of Tellurium from Copper Concentrates’ (principal investigator: Frederic Belanger). A major barrier to increasing CdTe PV module production is the availability of the element tellurium (Te), which currently has very limited supply. Most Te is obtained from ore extracted for copper mining, but the existing processing methods only extract 3-4% of the available Te in this ore, with the rest being discarded during other processing steps. This project aims to increase Te supply by developing an innovative extraction method that will recover more Te from the copper ore earlier in the process. This method will also extract toxic elements like antimony and arsenic, making the copper mining process more environmentally friendly.
  • Brightspot Automation (Boulder, CO): $1.6m (plus $0.4m awardee cost share) for project ‘Lifecycle Reliability Testing of CdTe Solar Panels’ (principal investigator: Andrew Gabor). This project aims to develop an imaging method to detect damage to in CdTe PV modules in the field. The team will design, build and test a non-invasive, high-throughput imaging tool using photoluminescence, which works by shining light onto the PV panels and measuring light that shines back in response. The team will develop artificial intelligence software to correlate specific types of defects with changes seen in the photoluminescence data from the imaging tool. Automated defect detection will reduce investment risks, lower financing and insurance costs, improve system performance, and inform panel end-of-life decisions.
  • First Solar (Perrysburg, OH): $15m (plus $27m awardee cost share) for project ‘High-Density Interconnect Technology for CdTe PV Modules’ (principal investigator: Rui Shao). This project aims to increase CdTe PV module efficiency using an innovative three-dimensional design for electrical contacts in the PV cell. While this design has shown promise in smaller-scale experiments, this project will demonstrate that this design for electrical contacts can be scaled up for use in high-volume manufacturing to create more efficient, reliable, cost-effective CdTe modules.
  • Tau Sciences (Redwood City, CA): $2.1m (plus $0.5m awardee cost share) for project ‘MANTIS: From Multiscale Analysis to Next Generation Thin Film Module Inspection Systems’ (principal investigator: Gregory Horner). This project is developing a new non-contact inspection technology to detect defects in CdTe PV modules, enabling site owners to detect problems, quantify the potential impact, and respond accordingly. Information gained through defect detection methods can also increase investor confidence in CdTe PV plants. The team will develop two different imaging techniques that measure how PV panels respond to electrical current and infrared light, then correlate these responses to specific defects.

See related items:

US DOE launches $20m NREL-administered Cadmium Telluride Accelerator Consortium

US Manufacturing of Advanced Cadmium Telluride consortium formed

Tags: CdTe perovskite



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