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August 29, 2012

DOE Attempts to Remain Frontrunner in Solar Technology Race



The United States has a “burning ambition” to beat China to the “Solar Grail”—the sweet spot at which America can offer the unsurpassed solar technology at the lowest price.

 And the Obama Administration is willing to do what it takes to accomplish that goal: On August 29, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) revealed funding and state-of-the-art apparatus and laboratory accommodations—for five new research projects intended to accelerate breakthroughs in cost-competitive solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSO) technologies.

Building off the Sunshot Initiative, these investments will enable collaborative research teams from industries, universities, and national laboratories to work together at the DOE’s Scientific User Facilities, a national network of unique facilities that provide more than 10,000 scientists and engineers each year with open access to some of the best instruments and tools in the world including x-ray sources, accelerators, supercomputers and nanoscale research centers.

“The past decade has seen explosive growth in the global solar energy market. American companies are helping to lead this dramatic progress —driving lower costs and introducing new, better performing technologies into the marketplace. These collaborative projects announced today harness the immense capabilities of our Scientific User Facilities to invent and deploy new technologies that will strengthen American manufacturing and technical competitiveness,” said Secretary Chu, when he launched the program.

He added, “As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, advanced solar energy technologies are helping to provide clean, renewable electricity for homes and businesses across the country while diversifying the United States’ energy economy.”

Establishing Scientific User Facility Research Partnerships

 Two projects have been awarded a total of $900,000 to establish research partnerships and carry out research using existing tools at DOE Scientific User Facilities.

·         Based in Berkeley, Calif., PLANT PV will partner with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Molecular Foundry to develop 3D mapping tools for higher-performing thin-film solar material ($450,000).

·         The University of Colorado will use tools at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to develop a model to examine the use of solid particles as a high-temperature, inexpensive heat-transfer material in concentrating solar power (CSP (News - Alert)) plants ($450,000).

 Developing a new Scientific User Facility instrument

 Three projects, totaling a $2.6 million investment, have been selected to establish full research programs, each at a Scientific User Facility that will result in new tool development—expanding the capability of each facility to conduct advanced solar energy research.

·         Researchers from Sandia National Laboratories will partner with the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies in New Mexico to develop new microscopy tools to help understand the chemical and electronic structure of thin-film photovoltaic materials and how microscopic variations limit device performance ($900.000).

·         Arizona State University will use x-ray technologies at Argonne National Laboratory to develop new microscopy tools to help understand the chemical and electronic structure of thin film photovoltaic materials and how microscopic variations limit photovoltaic device performance ($854,999)..

·         Stanford University will partner with SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory to research inexpensive ways to print solar cells ($878,578). 

According to DOE, “By leveraging the skills and resources of private industry, universities and national laboratories, these projects will help rapidly apply fundamental scientific discoveries to existing product lines and projects, accelerating higher levels of performance and greater cost reductions across the industry. “

The SunShot Initiativeis a collaborative national effort to make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade. Inspired by President Kennedy's "Moon Shot" program that put the first man on the moon, the SunShot Initiative has created new momentum for the solar industry by highlighting the need for American competitiveness in the clean energy race.

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Edited by Jamie Epstein


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