$20 Million federal initiative targets low-emission silicon and thin film research


The U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) recently announced the 2024 Photovoltaics Research and Development program. This new initiative aims to distribute $20 million across eight to fifteen teams, with individual grants ranging from $1 to $4 million.

SETO has outlined two main focus areas for this funding: “Photovoltaic Advances in Cell Efficiency, Reliability, and Supply Chain,” and “Building Academic Capabilities in Cadmium Telluride”.

The first area seeks to develop solar cell and “minimodule” prototypes aimed at lowering module costs and the carbon footprint of manufacturing and supply chains. This includes advancements in building-integrated and vehicle-integrated solar systems. SETO is particularly interested in projects that promise low-carbon synthesis of metallurgical-grade silicon and innovative designs for crystalline, III-V, and organic solar photovoltaic cells.

The initiative also aims to address the high costs of III-V solar cells, currently priced at $77/Wdc, making them non-competitive for terrestrial solar generation. For metallurgical-grade silicon, the goal is to reduce CO2 emissions from the current 4 to 5 kg CO2 per kg of 2N c-Si (solar-grade silicon) to less than 1 kg CO2 per kg of silicon. It is expected that between six and ten awards will be distributed, ranging from $1 to $1.5 million each, totaling $10 million.

The second focus area targets advancements in cadmium telluride technology, which could greatly benefit First Solar, America’s leading solar panel manufacturer. This funding will support projects that require the development or upgrade of cadmium telluride research facilities. The objective is to enhance the design and testing processes within the cadmium telluride research community, facilitating rapid advancements and technology transfer.

Additional priorities under this funding include:

  • Increasing the rate of learning and speed of advancement in CdTe cell and module research. 
  • Improving the efficiency, durability, and energy yield of state-of-the-art CdTe PV cells. 
  • Developing and validating new CdTe PV cell designs that have the potential to substantially outperform the current state of the art.  
  • Improving the quality and scale of materials produced at academic institutions to facilitate technology transfer to industry.

For this second topic, SETO expects to allocate two to five awards, each ranging from $1 to $ 4 million, with a total allocation of $10 million.

Key dates for the program are:

FOA Issue Date: May 1, 2024 
Informational Webinar: May 8, 2024 at 4 p.m. ET 
Submission Deadline for Mandatory Letter of Intent: June 12, 2024 at 5 p.m. ET 
Submission Deadline for Mandatory Concept Papers: July 1, 2024 at 5 p.m. ET 
Submission Deadline for Full Applications: September 16, 2024 at 5 p.m. ET 
Expected Submission Deadline for Replies to Reviewer Comments: November 6, 2024 at 5 p.m. ET 
Expected Timeframe for EERE Selection Notifications: Early 2025 
Expected Timeframe for Award Negotiations: Spring 2025 


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