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13 Solar Energy Projects to Receive up to $168M from DoE

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WASHINGTON, March 13, 2007 -- US Department of Energy (DoE) Secretary Samuel W. Bodman announced last week the selection of 13 industry-led solar technology development projects to negotiate with the department for as much as $168 million in federal funding for FY 2007-09. Once finalized, the projects will be the first agreements reached under President George W. Bush's Solar America Initiative (SAI).

The SAI is part of President Bush's Advanced Energy Initiative (AEI), announced in his 2006 State of the Union Address. Federal funding for the projects, which are designed to help reduce the cost of producing and distributing solar energy and make it competitive with conventional electricity sources by 2015, is subject appropriation from Congress. The teams have each agreed to contribute more than 50 percent of the funding, making the total expense of the 13 projects as much as $357 million over three years. 

The teams selected for negotiation have formed Technology Pathway Partnerships (TPP), which include companies, laboratories, universities and nonprofit organizations to accelerate the drive towards commercializing US-produced solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. These partnerships include more than 50 companies, 14 universities, three nonprofit organizations and two national laboratories. DoE funding is expected to begin in FY 2007, with $51.6 million going to the TPPs.

In addition, the projects will enable a tenfold expansion of the annual US manufacturing capacity of PV systems from 240 MW in 2005 to as much as 2850 MW by 2010, which would also put the US industry on track to reduce the cost of electricity produced by PV from current levels of 18-23 cents per kWh to a more competitive 5-10 cents per kWh by 2015, the DoE said.

Photovoltaic-based solar cells convert sunlight directly into electricity. They are made of semiconductor materials similar to those used in computer chips. When sunlight is absorbed by these materials, the solar energy knocks electrons loose from their atoms, allowing the electrons to flow through the material to produce electricity. The process of converting light to electricity is called the photovoltaic effect.

The projects selected to negotiate under the SAI are:
  • Amonix -- Manufacturing technology for high-concentrating PV and on low-cost production using multibandgap cells. Partners include CYRO Industries, Xantrex, the Imperial Irrigation District, Hernandez Electric, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Spectrolab, Micrel, Northstar, JOL Enterprises, the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and Arizona State University (ASU). DoE funding for the first year is expected to be roughly $3.2 million with approximately $14.8 million available over three years if certain goals are met.

  • Boeing -- Researching cell fabrication to yield very high efficiency systems. Partners: Light Prescription Innovators, PV Powered, Array Technologies, James Gregory Associates, Sylarus, Southern California Edison, NREL, the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, Merced. DoE funding for the first year is expected to be approximately $5.9 million and could reach $13.3 million over three years.

  • BP Solar -- Reducing wafer thickness while improving yield of multicrystalline silicon PV for commercial and residential markets. Partners: Dow Corning, Ceradyne, Bekaert, Ferro, Specialized Technology Resources, Komax, Palo Alto Research Center, AFG Industries, Automation Tooling Systems Ohio, Xantrex, Fat Spaniel, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Recticel, the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Central Florida and ASU. DoE funding would start at approximately $7.5 million, and could total $19.1 million.

  • Dow Chemical -- Developing integrated PV-powered technologies for roofing products. Partners: Miasole, SolFocus, Fronius, IBIS Associates and the University of Delaware (UD). First-year funding is expected to be roughly $3.3 million; a total of $9.4 million is available.

  • General Electric -- Developing various cell technologies, including a new bifacial, high-efficiency silicon cell that could be incorporated into systems solutions that can be demonstrated across the industry. Partners: REC Silicon, Xantrex, Solaicx, Georgia Tech, North Carolina State University, and UD. First-year DoE funding is expected to be roughly $8.1 million, and as much as $18.6 million over three years.

  • Greenray -- Developing a high-powered, ultrahigh-efficiency solar module that contains an inverter for easier home installation and increasing inverter lifetime. Partners: Sanyo, Tyco Electronics, Coal Creek Design, BluePoint Associates, National Grid, and Sempra Utilities. Initial funding is expected to be roughly $400,000, and could total $2.3 million.

  • Konarka -- Manufacturing research and product reliability assurance for extremely low-cost photovoltaic cells using organic dyes that convert sunlight to electricity. Partners include NREL and UD. First-year funding is expected to be $1.2 million, possibly reaching as much as $3.6 million.

  • Miasole -- Developing high-volume manufacturing technologies and PV component technologies. Research will focus on new types of flexible thin-film modules with integrated electronics and advances in technologies used for installation and maintenance. Partners include Exeltech, Carlisle SynTec, Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), NREL, the University of Colorado and UD. Initial funding is expected to be $5.8 million, or as much as $20 million over three years.

  • Nanosolar -- Improving low-cost systems and components using back-contacted thin-film PV cells for commercial buildings. Research will focus on large-area module deposition, inverters, and mounting. Partners include SunLink, SunTechnics and Conergy. Funding is expected to start at $1.1 million, and could total as much as $20 million.

  • Powerlight -- Reducing non-cell costs by making innovations with automated design tools and with modules that include mounting hardware. Partners include Specialized Technology Resources and Autodesk. Initial funding is expected to be approximately $2.8 million, and over three years could reach as much as $6 million.

  • Practical Instruments -- Exploring a novel concept for low-concentration optics to increase the output of rooftop PV systems and exploring designs using multijunction cells to allow for very high efficiency modules. Project partners include Spectrolab, SNL, SunEdison, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. First-year funding will be roughly $2.2 million, and could reach $4 million.

  • SunPower -- Researching lower-cost ingot and wafer fabrication technologies, automated manufacture of back-contact cells, and new module designs, to lower costs. Partners include Solaicx, MIT, NREL, and Xantrex. Funding is expected to start at around $7.7 million, with approximately $17.9 available over three years if goals are met.

  • United Solar Ovonic -- Increasing the efficiency and deposition rate of multibandgap, flexible, thin-film photovoltaic cells and reducing the cost of inverters and balance-of-system components. Partners include SMA America, Sat Con Technology Corporation, PV Powered, the ABB Group, Solectria Renewables, Developing Energy Efficient Roof Systems, Turtle Energy, Sun Edison, the University of Oregon, Syracuse University, the Colorado School of Mines, and NREL. First-year funding is expected to be approximately $2.4 million, or as much as $19.3 million over three years.
For more information on the Solar America Initiative, visit:
    Mar 2007
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