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22 June 2009


NREL seeks PV Technology Incubator proposals and makes PV Technology Pre-Incubator awards

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is seeking project proposals as part of the DOE’s Photovoltaic (PV) Technology Incubator program to accelerate commercialization of solar energy technologies. NREL has also announced partnerships with 13 small US solar businesses that have the capability to enter the market by 2012.

PV Technology Incubator proposals sought

The PV Technology Incubator program represents a significant partnering with US industry to help speed commercialization of R&D to meet aggressive cost and installation goals. “The PV Incubator is focused on enabling small business in the US to accelerate prototype and pre-commercial technologies toward pilot and full-scale production,” says NREL senior supervisor Martha Symko-Davies. “The companies are partnered with experts and capabilities at NREL, which reduces project implementation risk, quickly overcomes R&D hurdles, and increases the likelihood that the performance and reliability objectives can be achieved,” she adds.

The anticipated program funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is $9m. The subcontracts, of up to $3m each, will be awarded as 18 month phased subcontracts.

The primary objective of the PV Incubator program is to shorten the timeline for companies to transition prototype and pre-commercial PV technologies into pilot and full-scale manufacture. Applications are expected to focus on a limited number of high-impact areas that are on the critical path to scaling-up technology. The minimum entrance criteria are demonstrated PV cells or process lab devices or modules. The successful exit criteria is for prototype modules and pilot production demonstration at greater than 3MW per year. 

PV Technology Pre-Incubator awards announced

The PV Technology Pre-Incubator program bridges the gap between the concept verification stage of a technology and the development of a commercially viable prototype. This program is aimed at small businesses that have the capability to enter the market by 2012, enabling electricity close to grid parity. The rapid R&D advancements of these technology concepts will result in prototypes with projected manufacturing costs of less than $1/watt. The total anticipated subcontracts under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is $6m. A detailed, state-by-state list of proposals selected for negotiations (and the value of the awards) is as follows.


  • Banyan Energy Inc of Kensington, CA ($500,000) will develop a flat aggregated total internal reflection (ATIR) optic for moderate concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) systems that should result in a high-optical-efficiency concentrator with a uniquely low profile.
  • Crystal Solar Inc of Santa Clara, CA ($500,000) will develop thin crystal silicon solar cells on ceramic substrates, in order to reduce the manufacturing cost of silicon by reducing the losses associated with wafer generation and reducing the thickness of the resulting silicon wafer.
  • International Solar Electric Technology Inc of Chatsworth, CA ($456,006) will develop low-cost, monolithically integrated, printed copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) modules on flexible stainless-steel substrates.
  • TiSol LLC of Pasadena, CA ($499,100) will develop a viable technology for thin-film deposition in open atmosphere using a unique flame synthesis methodology, with the aim of reducing the cost and increasing the deployment of dye-sensitized solar cells through a reel-to-reel fabrication of layers within the dye cell.


  • Ascent Solar Technologies Inc of Littleton, CO ($315,037) will develop zinc magnesium oxide (ZnMgO) window layers to enabling high-performance mid-bandgap CIGS on polyimide modules (offering the potential to increase performance through an increase in the absorber bandgap, as well as making important step towards the realization of CIGS–based tandem cells).


  • EPIR Technologies Inc of Bolingbrook, IL ($500,000) will develop a high-efficiency single-crystal cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar cell (in order to lay the foundation and determine the viability of a CdTe-based solution to high efficiency CPV cells).
  • MicroLink Devices of Niles, IL ($500,000) will develop high-efficiency, low-cost, multi-junction solar cells based on epitaxial liftoff and wafer bonding (combining these approaches to create a cell architecture with the potential to surpass existing high-efficiency multi-junction solar cells).


  • 1366 Technologies Inc of Lexington, MA ($500,000) will develop a kerfless wafering technique for the production of silicon wafers (aiming to reduce costs through greater efficiency).
  • Lightwave Power Inc of Cambridge, MA, together with Iowa State University ($450,000), will develop a roll-to-roll photonic-enhanced thin-film solar cell (significantly raising performance levels through increased long-wavelength absorption, resulting in increased current collection).
  • Vanguard Solar Inc of Sudbury, MA ($500,000) will develop a nanostructured II-VI-based thin-film photovoltaic cell (targeting a manufacturable thin-film device with low cost and high efficiency).

North Carolina

  • Semprius Inc of Durham, NC ($500,000) will optimize the primary and secondary optics for a transfer-printed microcell-based CPV module (combining the benefits of unique-to-solar manufacturing techniques with the performance and operational benefits of microcell CPVs).


  • SpectraWatt Inc of Hillsboro, OR ($500,000) will improve silicon solar cell efficiency through the use of an additive nano-structured material (aiming to increase the performance of standard multicrystalline-silicon solar cells through increased current collection in a way that does not require modifications to existing manufacturing process streams).


  • Luna Innovations Inc of Danville, VI ($499,994) will investigate new acceptor molecules which, in combination with advances in donor materials, should lead to record efficiencies for organic PV cells.

See related item:

PV overcapacity to drive 32% drop in market in 2009

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