In a move to make solar energy more cost competitive, the US Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced that they will invest up to $13.7 million over the next 3 years. Eleven technology led projects will focus on developing advanced solar photovoltaic (PV) technology manufacturing processes and products. A further 20% of costs will be shared with industry and universities making a combined investment of over $17 million.
These projects are part of the Solar America Initiative which is a U.S. DOE effort to make solar energy cost-competitive with conventional forms of electricity by 2015. The strategy pursues complementary activities in research and development (R&D) and in market transformation. The goals are to reduce costs through R&D and to eliminate market barriers through deployment.
According to a recent statement from the Department of Energy, by 2030, global energy consumption is expected to grow by over 50 percent, with 70 percent of that growth coming from the world's emerging economies. U.S. electricity demand is projected to increase by about 50 percent by 2030, with global demand nearly doubling.
Universities will work closely with industry partners to advance manufacturing processes and products, reduce costs and increase efficiencies. Current levels of electricity produced by PV are $0.18 - $0.23 per kilowatt hour (kWh) but these projects hope to significantly reduce the cost to $0.05 - $0.10 per (kWh) by 2015 - making photovoltaic technology more competitive nationwide.
Negotiations between selected applicants and DOE will begin immediately to determine final project plans and funding levels. Funding is subject to appropriations from Congress. Projects include:
- Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ) with SolFocus and Soliant Energy: Reliability Evaluation of Concentrator Photovoltaics per IEC Qualification Specifications.
- California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, CA) with Spectrolab: 100 millimeter (mm) Engineered InP on Si Laminate Substrates for InP based Multijunction Solar Cells.
- Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA) with Sixtron: Rear Contact Technologies for Next-Generation High-Efficiency Commercial Silicon Solar Cells.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA) with CaliSolar, Inc. and BP Solar, Inc: Defect Engineering, Cell Processing, and Modeling for High-Performance, Low-Cost Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics.
- North Carolina State University (Raleigh, NC) with Spectrolab: Tunable Narrow Bandgap Absorbers for Ultra High Efficiency Multijunction Solar Cells.
- Pennsylvania State University (University Park, PA) with Honeywell: Organic Semiconductor Heterojunction Solar Cells for Efficient, Low-Cost, Large Area Scalable Solar Energy Conversion.
- University of Delaware Institute of Energy Conversion (Newark, DE) with Dow Corning: Development of a Low-Cost Insulated Foil Substrate for CIGS Photovoltaics.
- University of Delaware (Newark, DE) with SunPower: High Efficiency Back Contact Silicon Heterojunction Solar Cells.
- University of Florida (Gainesville FL) with Global Solar Energy Inc., International Solar Electric Technology Inc., Nanosolar Inc., and Solyndra Inc: Routes for Rapid Synthesis of CIGS Absorbers.
- University of Toledo (Toledo, OH) with Calyxo USA, Inc: Improved Atmospheric Vapor Pressure Deposition to Produce Thin CdTe Absorber Layers.
- University of Toledo (Toledo, OH) with Xunlight: High-Rate Fabrication of a-Si-Based Thin-Film Solar Cells Using Large-area VHF PECVD.