Renewables, Solar

DOE Awards Aimed at Cheaper Solar Electricity

Issue 10 and Volume 105.

Nineteen universities and 14 companies are expected to receive a total of $40 million in funding for research and development into thin-film photovoltaic cells from DOE. “Each of these awards makes possible a research and development direction that could significantly cut the cost of solar electricity,” said Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. “With lowered costs, solar energy’s potential can be fully realized, increasing its contribution to our national energy security and helping our environment. Developing cutting-edge solar cell technologies also helps the U. S. photovoltaics industry maintain its position against tough foreign competition in this increasingly lucrative world market.” Thin-film solar cells use tiny amounts of semiconductor material compared to the more conventional crystal silicon cells, which leads to greatly reduced production costs.

A researcher from the NREL operates a close-space deposition vacuum system that will coat the sample with a thin film of CdTe. The CdTe will form the solar absorber in a CdS/CdTe PV solar cell. The system can deposit CdTe film surfaces up to 1.5″ x 1.5″ in surface area and has produced cells with world-record efficiencies. Photo by Warren Gretz, courtesy of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory
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National research teams formed as a result of these awards will perform collaborative research on key research problems. The teams consist of university, industry and NREL researchers. The actual number of awards and their amounts will depend on the final budget available in the Energy Department’s fiscal year 2002 budget. Many of the awards are cost-shared, with recipients contributing a total of $13 million toward the effort.

DOE is making the awards in three categories: Technology partner awards to be cost-shared with industry and government contributing to the project; R&D partner awards that will go to universities and businesses to increase the understanding and knowledge of the science behind the expanding solar electricity industry; and the University Center of Excellence, designated by DOE to perform advanced research on solar-electric materials and devices.

Industry and university groups to receive awards include BP Solar, Energy Photovoltaics, First Solar, Global Solar Energy, Iowa Thin Films, Siemens Solar Industries, United Solar Systems Corporation, R&D Partners AstroPower, BP Solar, California Institute of Technology, Case Western University, Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, Energy Conversion Devices, Energy Photovoltaics, Florida Solar Energy Center, Green Development and International Solar Electric Technology.

Also receiving awards were Iowa State University, ITN Energy Systems, MV Systems, NuSolar, Pennsylvania State University, Syracuse University, Unisun, the University of Florida, the University of Illinois, the University of Nebraska, the University of North Carolina, the University of Oregon, the University of South Florida, the University of Toledo, the University of Utah, Washington State University, and the University of Delaware.