NREL takes lead on $30m consortium to improve PV technology performance

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The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has been selected to head up a new U.S. consortium tasked with accelerating the development of improving efficiencies and lowering the costs of solar PV module materials.

The U.S. program will involve not only the Department of Energy’s (DOE) NREL, but also Sandia National Laboratories, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, which will work in partnership under a $30 million grant over the next five years as part of DOE’s SunShot Initiative.

The consortium is to be called Durable Module Materials (DuraMat) National Lab Consortium, and will focus on increasing the market competitiveness of solar power. DuraMat’s director will be Teresa Barnes from NREL’s Materials Science Center, with Sandia’s Anthony Martino deputy director.

“DuraMat provides easily accessible capabilities that bring the national lab and university research infrastructure together with the PV and supply-chain industries,” Barnes said. “Our research strategy integrates data analytics, module durability testing, prototyping, predictive modeling, field deployment, materials discovery, materials forensics and technology transfer to accelerate module material development and reduce the cost of electricity from photovoltaics.”

Under the SunShot Initiative, the DOE earlier this year launched its Energy Materials Network (EMN), which was created to offer a leg-up to American entrepreneurs and manufacturers operating in the clean energy space. DuraMat will work under the EMN umbrella, Barnes added, providing industry and academia expertise and capabilities to individuals and companies intent on pushing the PV envelope.

Such expertise is ordinarily only available within the confines of leading U.S. laboratories. DuraMat is intended to address the substantial opportunities that exist for durable, high-performance and low-cost materials for solar module components. To achieve this, the consortium will build a network of active collaborations from within national laboratories, academia and industry, and will help to move highly promising module materials from early stages of research to successful marketplace deployment and commercialization.