DOE Allots Funding to Advance Solar Tech

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says it is investing up to $45 million in research to advance solar hardware and systems integration – including the creation of a consortium dedicated to developing control technologies for a modernized electric grid.

While solar makes up 3% of U.S. electricity, that amount is expected to reach 18% by 2050 – requiring an increase of hundreds of GW of solar capacity. As a result, DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) is seeking new solutions that can reliably bring large quantities of solar onto the grid and that can ensure that American-made hardware is used in those installations. 

“The country’s solar energy use is on the rise,” says Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette. “Investing in innovative research and development projects will help ensure that the technologies we’re using benefit the U.S. economy while securely delivering reliable power to all Americans.”

EERE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) Fiscal Year 2021 Systems Integration and Hardware Incubator funding program will advance solar in two broad areas: systems integration and hardware incubator.

Today’s grid uses power from multiple energy resources – it has become digitized and complex. Connecting solar reliably and securely to the power grid – whether as utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) or as smaller-scale distributed PV systems for homes and businesses – is a challenge the two topic areas below are designed to meet. The new Research Roadmap on Grid-Forming Inverters, which was developed in collaboration with three DOE National Laboratories and two universities, will help guide the research as these technologies advance. U.S. universities, companies, nonprofits and state, local and tribal governments are encouraged to apply under this topic. DOE seeks innovative projects in the following areas:

-Grid-Forming Technologies Research Consortium – $25 million, 1 award: Grid-forming technologies automatically coordinate inverter-based and other resources to start-up and maintain electricity on the grid. SETO and the Wind Energy Technologies Office, also within EERE, will support the creation of a consortium to advance research and industry-wide collaboration on grid-forming technologies and ensure that they enhance power systems operation
-Integrating Behind-the-Meter Solar Resources into Utility Data Systems – $6 million, 2-3 awards: Integrated communication systems that digest sensor measurements from distributed energy sources, especially those from behind-the-meter solar PV systems, are necessary for utilities to manage the grid. These systems will lead to greater PV system visibility and more flexible and reliable control and operation of the overall power system.

In 2019, less than half of the $9 billion spent on PV hardware in the U.S. was spent on domestic hardware. U.S. solar hardware manufacturing creates jobs and economic activity and promotes energy security. This topic is designed to increase U.S. solar manufacturing by bringing innovative technologies to market more quickly. Only U.S. for-profit entities may apply under this topic. DOE seeks innovative projects in the following areas:

-Product Development – $6 million, 6-12 awards: The goal of this topic area is to bring new technologies and manufacturing processes to the prototype stage and develop and validate a pathway to commercial success
-Product Development & Demonstration – $8 million, 1-4 awards: Under this topic area, products or solutions will undergo pilot-scale testing and demonstration. Examples include high-volume or high-throughput manufacturing processes for solar hardware; production of a large number of devices for field testing and validation; and demonstration of a system, like a microgrid, that pilot-tests new hardware

For more information on the DOE’s recently announced funding to advance U.S. solar technologies, click here.

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