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9 March 2007


DOE funds first projects in $168m Solar America Initiative

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced the selection of 13 industry-led solar technology development projects for funding of up to $168m (over fiscal 2007-2009). The aim is to accelerate the commercialization of US-produced solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.

The funding is the first to be made available as part of President Bush’s Solar America Initiative (SAI), which is a component of the Advanced Energy Initiative (AEI) announced in his 2006 State of the Union Address.

As part of cooperative cost-shared agreements (to be negotiated), industry-led project teams will contribute more than 50% of the funding, for a total value of up to $357m over three years. 

The DOE funding is expected to begin in fiscal 2007, with $51.6m going to Technology Pathway Partnerships (TPP) formed by the project teams (consisting of more than 50 companies, 14 universities, 3 non-profit organizations, and two national laboratories). Among the 13 projects funded are the following, based on compound semiconductor-based multi-junction solar cells:

  • ‘High-efficiency concentrating photovoltaic power system’, focused on cell fabrication research, is headed by Boeing, the parent company of GaAs-on-Ge multi-junction photovoltaic cell manufacturer Spectrolab of Sylmar, CA, USA. Partners include Southern California Edison, the National Renewable Energy Laboaratory (NREL), the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and the University of California Merced. DOE funding should be about $5.9m for the first year, with about $13.3m available over three years if the team meets its goals.


  • ‘A low-cost, high-concentration PV system for utility markets’, focused on manufacturing technology and on low-cost production using multi-bandgap cells, is headed by Amonix Inc of Torrance, CA, USA. Partners include Spectrolab, NREL, the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and Arizona State University. DOE funding should be about $3.2m for the first year, with about $14.8m available over three years.


  • ‘Low-concentration CPV systems for rooftop applications’, headed by Practical Instruments of Pasadena, CA, USA, will explore a novel concept for low-concentration optics to increase the output of rooftop PV systems, as well as designs using multi-junction cells for very high-efficiency modules. Partners include Spectrolab, Sandia National Laboratories, SunEdison, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  DOE funding should be about $2.2m for the first year, with $4m available over three years.

In addition, two projects relate to copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) photovoltaic cells:

  • ‘Low-cost, scalable, flexible PV systems with integrated electronics’, headed by Miasolé of Santa Clara, CA, USA, will develop high-volume manufacturing technologies and PV component technologies, focusing on new types of flexible thin-film modules with integrated electronics and advances in technologies for installation and maintenance. Partners include Sandia National Laboratories, NREL, the University of Colorado, and the University of Delaware. DOE funding should be $5.8m for the first year, with about $20m available over three years.


  • ‘Low-cost, scaleable PV systems for commercial rooftops’, headed by Nanosolar of Palo Alto, CA, USA, will work on improved low-cost systems and components using back-contacted thin-film PV cells for commercial buildings, focused on large-area module deposition, inverters, and mounting. Partners include SunLink, SunTechnics, and Conergy. DOE funding should be about $1.1m for the first year, with about $20m available over three years.

The SAI aims to enable an expansion of annual PV system manufacturing capacity in the USA from 240MW in 2005 to 2.85GW by 2010, putting the US on track to reduce the cost of electricity produced by PVs from $0.18-0.23 per kWh to $0.05-0.10 per kWh (cost-competitive with conventional electricity sources) by 2015.

See related items:

NREL’s multi-junction solar cell pioneers awarded Dan David Prize

Spectrolab’s new terrestrial solar cell smashes 40% efficiency barrier

See related articles:

February 2007 issue: CIGS PV cells progress (12.8 MB)

Oct/Nov 2006 issue: Silicon shortage opens window for CIGS PVs