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13 March 2008


DOE investing $13.7m in 11 university PV projects

In response to last June’s ‘University Photovoltaic Process and Product Development Support’ Funding Opportunity Announcement, the US Department of Energy (DOE) says it is investing up to $13.7m over three years in 11 university-led projects focused on developing solar PV technology manufacturing processes and products (making $17.4m, combined with a minimum university and industry cost share of 20%). The projects have the potential to significantly reduce the cost of electricity produced by PVs from existing levels of $0.18-0.23 per kiloWatt hour (kWh) to $0.05-0.10 per kWh by 2015 (competitive in markets nationwide). The funding is part of President Bush’s Solar America Initiative (which aims to make solar energy cost-competitive with conventional forms of electricity by 2015).

The DOE says that universities selected for the projects will leverage fundamental understanding of materials and PV devices to help industry partners advance manufacturing processes and products. Each university will work closely with an industry partner to ensure that the projects retain a commercialization focus and that results are quickly transitioned into market ready-products and manufacturing processes. Also, students will be exposed to diverse PV-related commercialization efforts, enhancing workforce development in an effort to increase competitiveness and retain qualified scientists in the growing domestic PV research and development industry.

Apart from projects focused on silicon and organic semiconductors, projects selected that involve compound semiconductors include:

  • Arizona State University with SolFocus of Mountain View, CA and Soliant Energy of Pasadena, CA: ‘Reliability Evaluation of Concentrator Photovoltaics per IEC Qualification Specifications’ will focus on reducing bottlenecks in the qualification test such as environmental chamber testing while enhancing scheduling and coordination with industry to increase testing throughput and efficiency (to overcome the backlog of products waiting to undergo IEC product testing caused by the recent boom in concentrating PVs). DOE will provide up to $625,304 for the $800,000 project.
  • California Institute of Technology with Spectrolab of Sylmar, CA: ‘100mm Engineered InP on Si Laminate Substrates for InP based Multijunction Solar Cells’, aims to reduce the indium phosphide layer thickness by a factor of ten by bonding a thin layer to an inexpensive silicon laminate substrate, enabling a cost-effective, scaleable InP-based multijunction solar cell process (and opening up a new design space for high-efficiency multijunction solar cells). DOE will provide up to $837,000 for the $1m project.
  • North Carolina State University with Spectrolab: ‘Tunable Narrow Bandgap Absorbers for Ultra High Efficiency Multijunction Solar Cells’, aims to increase conversion efficiency (by balancing each layer’s responsiveness to the sun’s broad spectrum and by matching the current produced by each layer) through developing and optimizing a 1-1.5eV graded-strain subcell layer and then integrating it into Spectrolab’s triple-junction stack to produce a four-junction solar cell (targeting record efficiency of 45%). DOE will provide up to $1.15m for the $1.4m project.
  • University of Delaware Institute of Energy Conversion with Dow Corning: ‘Development of a Low-Cost Insulated Foil Substrate for CIGS Photovoltaics’ will address limitations in the formation of flexible copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) modules (due to the lack of an inexpensive substrate capable of withstanding the necessary high processing temperatures) by targeting the development of a low-cost stainless-steel flexible substrate coated with silicone-based resin dielectric and module processes applicable across a variety of roll-to-roll CIGS manufacturing techniques (targeting efficiencies greater than 12%). DOE will provide up to $1.5m for the $1.85m project.
  • University of Florida with Global Solar Energy Inc of Tucson, AZ, International Solar Electric Technology Inc of Chatsworth, CA, Nanosolar Inc of San Jose, CA and Solyndra Inc of Fremont, CA: ‘Routes for Rapid Synthesis of CIGS Absorbers’ will develop predictive models that quantitatively describe the formation of CIGS films under different processing conditions, for use in developing optimal processing recipes that reduce processing time and identify scaling issues for commercial manufacturing (targeting a CIGS synthesis time of less than two minutes). DOE will provide up to $599,556 for the $800,000 project.
  • University of Toledo with Solar Fields LLC of Perrysburg, OH: ‘Improved Atmospheric Vapor Pressure Deposition to Produce Thin CdTe Absorber Layers’ will reduce cadmium telluride (CdTe) layer thickness to about 1 micron (compared to 8 microns in existing record CdTe thin-film devices, which increases material costs and deposition time in commercial manufacturing) while targeting a 10% module efficiency. Improvements to contacts, uniformity, and monolithic integration will also be achieved. DOE will provide up to $1.16m for the $1.7m project.

Negotiations between the DOE and the selected applicants are beginning immediately to determine the final project plans and funding levels (subject to appropriations from the US Congress).

See related items:

GSE’s PowerFlex CIGS material extends product integration

SolFocus installs first solar array for 3MW Spanish CPV project

GSE reaches 10%-efficient CIGS production on flexible substrate

‘Third-wave’ solar panels power Nanosolar’s first contract

Emcore claims record efficiency for volume-production, multi-junction solar cell aimed at terrestrial applications

DOE funds first projects in $168m Solar America Initiative

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

Search: PV InP Multijunction solar cell Foil substrate for CIGS photovoltaics CIGS modules CIGS CdTe SolFocus Spectrolab Dow Corning Global Solar Energy Nanosolar

Article download (1.28MB): Lighting up CIGS PVs