The Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) has chosen five companies – deemed “Power Connectors” – to contract for various services related to the newly created American Made Challenges program.
As a subset of the American Made program, is this first challenge: The American-Made Solar Prize. Per the Department of Energy, the programs purpose is to:
Revitalize U.S. solar manufacturing through a series of contests and the development of a diverse and powerful support network that leverages national laboratories, energy incubators, and other resources across the country.
The program has a $3 million ‘prize budget’.
The following organizations have been selected as Power Connectors:
- Elemental Excelerator – Honolulu, Hawaii
- Greentown Labs – – Somerville, Massachusetts
- Nation of Makers – Silver Spring, Maryland
- Powerhouse – Oakland, California
- Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation, Carnegie Mellon University – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
This program fits within the economic nationalism of current American politics; however unlike the multiple tariffs that have been levied on multiple components of PV systems, this policy is supportive. However, it still raises questions about the role of U.S. manufacturing in a the world, led by the United States for much of recent history, which has absolutely globalized everything in our lives – involving damn near everyone on this plane.
The base question is whether overly focusing on making everything oneself with our current manufacturing techniques would lead toward higher prices and a slower technological progression in exchange for a small number of jobs. Access to a global marketplaces mean access to a wider range of components, and limiting these can have impacts on price, technology and even quality.
However, from a nation-state perspective considering energy security and holding onto expertise in manufacturing that one day might protect in drawn out conflicts, it makes a certain logical sense that is beyond the simpler economic models of free trade.
Research has suggested that instead of tariffs and combat with the Chinese, it might be more beneficial to complement the work that China does with a research and development pipeline, taking advantage of the high quality U.S. university system as well the heavily developed manufacturing infrastructures of China.
This pv magazine author will take whatever investment in innovation we can get, and looks forward to reaching out to these five companies to learn further what they’ll provide the program.