21 January 2010


DOE provides $12m for four early-stage PV firms

US energy secretary Steven Chu has announced that the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of Golden, CO, USA is to invest $12m in funding (including $10m from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) to support the development of early-stage solar energy technologies.

The Photovoltaic (PV) Incubator Program partners NREL with companies that have developed new solar cell technologies to help move them to commercial-scale manufacturing, aiming to potentially support new domestic high-tech manufacturing jobs over the long term.

The latest partnerships support the DOE’s goal of making solar energy cost-competitive with conventional forms of electricity by 2015 as well as the Obama Administration’s commitment to a clean energy economy.

The partnerships leverage the technical expertise of NREL, which will provide guidance and technical assistance to help the companies overcome common challenges for small-scale or pilot manufacturing. Firms awarded under the incubator program will work closely with NREL to move prototype and pre-commercial PV technologies into pilot and full-scale manufacturing. The anticipated subcontracts, of up to $3m each, will be awarded as 18-month phased subcontracts, with payment made on completion of project milestones.

The partnership projects (subject to negotiation) include:

  • Alta Devices Inc of Santa Clara, CA will focus on developing an innovative high-efficiency (more than 20%), low-cost compound semiconductor photovoltaic module, with market entry expected in 2011;
  • Solar Junction Corp of San Jose, CA will develop a manufacturing process to produce a very high-efficiency multi-junction cell, for use by concentrating PV (CPV) manufacturers to produce lower-cost CPV systems;
  • TetraSun of Saratoga, CA will focus on a back-surface passivation for high-efficiency, low-cost crystalline silicon solar cells; and
  • Semprius Inc of Durham, NC will focus efforts toward a massively parallel, microcell-based CPV receiver, combining the benefits of unique-to-solar manufacturing techniques with the performance and operational benefits of microcell concentrating photovoltaics.

“Working with NREL researchers reduces the implementation risk associated with new solar technologies and increases the likelihood that the performance and reliability objectives can be achieved in the near future,” says NREL incubator manager Martha Symko-Davies.

The PV Technology Incubator project represents a novel DOE business approach. Technical benchmarks with firm due dates are identified in each proposal. Subcontractors will receive funding only after each deliverable has been tested and verified by NREL to have met the predetermined targets.

See related items:

Semprius raises $6.4m Series B funding for solar module development

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