Energy Department provides $2 million to advance early-stage solar PV technologies

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) has been working for years to lower the cost of electricity from solar and ease grid integration through its SunShot Initiative. And while most of the work done to date has focused largely on short- to mid-term problems, today the agency took a step towards the longer term.

DOE has announced awards for 10 small-scale solar PV research and development (R&D) projects through its Small Innovative Projects in Solar (SIPS) sub-program, which seeks to lower the cost of electricity from solar to $0.02-0.03 per kilowatt-hour by 2030.

Through SIPS DOE will fund year-long projects in “novel or emerging” areas of PV research, and the agency says that this will allow researchers to test a concept, and, if successful, develop data to support further research. DOE notes that this is an approach which has worked with its SunShot incubator program, but that this is one of the first times it has funded early-stage, high-risk research.

“This is one of our first funding opportunities that looks to a post-2020 goal,” notes DOE.

Nine of the ten projects are at universities across the United States, and the tenth awardee is Nliten Energy Corporation in Mountain View, California. Most of the projects involve III-V semiconductors or perovskites, however two seek to improve cadmium indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) and cadmium telluride (CdTe) technologies, which have already been widely commercialized.

Finally, Arizona State University will receive $179,000 to evaluate and develop a method for sound-assisted low-temperature spalling to enable low-cost, kerfless silicon wafers.

In the same announcement, DOE made $9 million available to improve collectors for concentrating solar power (CSP) technology.