The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today awarded nearly $40 million to 40 projects that are advancing the next generation of solar, storage, and industrial technologies necessary for achieving the Biden-Harris administration’s climate goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035. Specifically, the projects will reduce the cost of solar technologies by increasing the lifespan of photovoltaic (PV) systems from 30 to 50 years, developing technologies that will enable solar to be used in fuel and chemicals production, and advancing novel storage technologies.
“We are laser focused on deploying more solar power and developing more cost-effective technologies to decarbonize our electricity system,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Research to develop stronger and longer-lasting solar panels is critical to addressing the climate crisis. The 40 projects announced today – led by universities and private industry across the country – is an investment in the next generation of innovations that will strengthen the nation’s solar capacity and enhance our grid resilience.»
The 40 projects announced today focus on concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) and PV. PV technologies directly convert sunlight into electricity, while CSP captures heat from sunlight and uses that thermal energy. The projects will focus on:
- Photovoltaic research – Three projects to help make PV systems last 50 years, 20 years longer than current PV system lifetimes, which would reduce replacement and maintenance costs of solar systems. These projects will enable modular components that could be easily replaced due to normal wear and tear or after extreme weather events and better monitoring of systems. (Total award amount: $4.5 million)
- Concentrating solar-thermal power research – Thirteen projects will develop technologies that can enable CSP plants to operate at very high temperatures, which are necessary to produce fuels and chemicals with solar. These projects also improve commercial CSP plants’ overall reliability. (Total award amount: $25 million)
- Pumped thermal energy storage – Three projects will develop long-duration thermal energy storage, which can store and deliver at least 10 hours of electricity whenever it is needed, supporting DOE’s Long Duration Storage Shot. (Total award amount: $4 million)
- PV and CSP research advancement – Twenty-one projects will test novel ideas that can produce significant results in less than two years. These projects have a simplified application process, designed to encourage applications from engineering and science researchers in traditionally underrepresented groups, as well as early-career researchers who have never applied or been selected for DOE funding. (Total award amount: $6 million)
“Colorado is leading the way in deploying clean energy and developing innovative solar technologies, while demonstrating the clear economic benefits of investing in the clean energy industry. These projects are exactly the type of research we should invest in to decarbonize our electric grid, ensure long-term growth of America’s solar industry, and confront climate change,” said U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (CO).
“This Department of Energy investment in the University of Wisconsin-Madison will support new technologies and innovation at concentrating solar power plants, which can lead to lower operational costs and better reliability. We are thankful that the Biden Administration recognizes that Made in Wisconsin science, research, and innovation can play a leading role in helping to create clean energy jobs and a renewable energy economy,” said U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (WI).
“These are critical resources that will help the Nevada System of Higher Education continue to lead with its cutting-edge research programs. Nevada’s innovation economy benefits everyone in our state and across the nation, and I’m continuing to promote it through my Innovation State Initiative to fund research, support clean and renewable energy, and create good-paying jobs,” said U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (NV).
“Northwest Ohio continues to play a leading role in shaping the national and global response to the crisis of climate change. The University of Toledo is on the front lines of this effort, and its work to advance next-generation solar technologies will play a critical part in delivering the affordable, reliable, low-emission energy we need for our success in the 21st century,» said U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Chairwoman, House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.
“The National Renewable Energy Lab continues to shine as the world’s leading lab in renewable energy and energy efficiency by making groundbreaking innovations in solar technology. These two projects will help bring us to a cleaner future by improving energy storage and making perovskite technology, which directly converts sunlight into electricity, more accessible. I’m proud of today’s announcement and of the work NREL continues to do to combat climate change,” said U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter (CO-07).
“I want to congratulate the team at UNLV on being awarded $200,000 from the Department of Energy towards their groundbreaking research to improve the efficiency of renewable energy generation. Representing the fastest warming city and the sunniest state in the nation, Nevada has much to gain in our transition to a clean energy economy. These investments will advance the necessary research and innovation that will spur that development,” said U.S. Representative Dina Titus (NV-01).
«These awards will undoubtedly advance much-needed solar, storage, and industrial technologies, and will lay the groundwork for achieving a pathway to a zero-carbon grid – an investment that is needed to combat climate change. I am proud to see Columbia University of New York’s 13th congressional district among those awarded to continue their groundbreaking research on solar technology. Renewable solar energy is critical in our efforts to lower our nation’s carbon footprint, and I commend Secretary Granholm for her continued commitment to the path forward addressing the ever-growing climate crisis,» said U.S. Representative Adriano Espaillat (NY-13).
“We continue to see the impacts of climate change first hand in New Hampshire and across the country. As we look to protect our planet, continued investment in innovative clean energy technology is essential. I’m pleased Brayton Energy will receive these federal funds to continue their work in sustainable energy, and I remain committed to ensuring New Hampshire remains a leader in building our clean energy future,” said U.S. Representative Chris Pappas (NH-01).
To better inform DOE about future research needs, DOE seeks comment on two requests for information: (1) proposed research areas for supporting American solar manufacturing and (2) performance targets for perovskite photovoltaics. Stakeholders in the solar industry, business community, financing entities, and others are encouraged to respond.
Concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) technologies can be used to generate electricity by converting energy from sunlight to power a turbine, but the same basic technologies can also be used to deliver heat to a variety of industrial applications, like water desalination, enhanced oil recovery, food processing, chemical production, and mineral processing. Learn more about how CSP works.
The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) supports CSP research and development projects that work to improve the performance, reduce the cost, and improve the lifetime and reliability of materials, components, subsystems, and integrated solutions for CSP technologies. In the past decade, the cost of electricity produced by CSP has dropped more than 50 percent thanks to more efficient systems and the wider use of thermal energy storage, which allows solar energy to be dispatchable around the clock and increase the time each day that a solar power plant can generate energy. SETO is working to make CSP even more affordable, with the goal of reaching $0.05 per kilowatt-hour for baseload plants with at least 12 hours of thermal energy storage.
In September 2021, DOE released the Solar Futures Study, a report that explores the role of solar energy in achieving these goals as part of a decarbonized U.S. electric grid. Learn more about SETO’s goals here.
Within SETO’s CSP research area, efforts are focused on five major topics. Learn more about them below.
SETO funding for CSP research is awarded to projects that substantially advance, develop, or engineer new concepts in the collector, receiver, thermal storage, heat transfer media, and power cycle subsystems, including technologies that will lower operations and management costs. This includes transformative concepts with the potential to break through existing cost and performance barriers. Projects are managed by the CSP team and executed with the goal of developing technologies that are commercially relevant for the U.S. energy sector. Learn more about SETO’s funding programs and current funding opportunities.
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