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DOE to Invest $170 Million for Solar Energy RDD&D

28 June 2006

US Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel Bodman today announced $170 million over three years (from FY ’07-’09) for cost-shared, public-private partnerships to advance solar energy technology. This solicitation is part of the Solar America Initiative (SAI).

The SAI aims to bring down the cost of solar energy systems to make them competitive with conventional electricity sources in the US by 2015. The goal of the projects funded by the solicitation is to reduce photovoltaic (PV) costs from 13-22 cents/kWh today, to 9-18 cents/kWh by 2010, on track with the SAI goals.

The $170-million SAI Photovoltaic Systems R&D Technology Pathway Partnerships (TPP) Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) will focus on development, testing, demonstration, validation, and deployment of new PV components, systems and manufacturing equipment. TPPs will be industry-led and may include one or more companies, universities, national laboratories, and/or non-governmental organizations.

Because DOE is requiring that the industry-led teams match their awards dollar-for-dollar, a total investment of $340 million will be realized when the private cost share is included. The prime recipient of DOE awards under this FOA must be a US commercial entity with current or planned US manufacturing capacity. An applicant may be a prime recipient on one award, and may also participate as a sub-recipient partner on multiple awards.

The cost of PV-generated electricity has been reduced by more than 20% over the last five years and the US PV industry has doubled in size during that time, according to the DOE.

President Bush’s Advanced Energy Initiative (AEI) includes a 22% increase in funding for clean energy technology research at DOE. As part of the AEI, the President’s FY 2007 budget requests $148 million for the Solar America Initiative, a $65-million, 78% increase from FY 2006, to accelerate the development of semiconductor materials that convert sunlight directly to electricity.

The $170-million solicitation, subject to Congressional appropriations, will fund projects in each of the following categories:

  • Systems-Class Projects. These larger projects will address multiple technology improvements in PV system and component design, integration, and installation. Teams will be expected to deliver full turnkey systems for testing, and will be expected to conduct pilot-scale manufacturing demonstrations. Per project, annual DOE funding will be up to $10 million per year plus a 50% minimum cost share, for a total project value of up to $20 million per year. Between four and ten selections are expected.

  • Subsystems-Class Projects. These smaller projects will focus on fewer technology developments on specific components or manufacturing equipment. Teams will be expected to deliver new components for testing, and will be expected to conduct pilot-scale manufacturing demonstrations. Per project, annual DOE funding will be up to $4 million per year plus a 50% minimum cost share, for a total project value of up to $8 million per year. Between ten and 15 selections are expected.

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June 28, 2006 in Power Generation, Solar | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)

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Maybe it will lead to widespread, roof mounted solar electric production.

A massive thermal solar concentrator array may achieve this. With 35-40% efficiency, it may pay for itself quickly with summer peak electric usage rates.

That is enough money to lead to widespread solar powered cell phone chargers...and that is about it.

100's of billions spent for military efforts in Iraq and less than 0.1% of that amount spent to further solar energy.

There was an earlier post on a planned $100 million plus plant in the bay area that will eventually be the biggest solar plant in the world (or so they say). They claim they can bring the costs of solar cells to 1/5 of the current cost. I haven't seen what the final system cost will be, but isn't it quite possible that they might exceed the goals of this Government sponsored project?

I am not a free market purist by any means, but perhaps the industry, both in the U.S. and abroad is far enough along that it might be more productive at this point to incentivise panels on roofs all over America rather than R&D projects. The industry is large enough that it will innovate in order to compete. By the time this project gets off the ground and delivers its final results, the Chinese may already be further down the road in terms of cost reductions. After all, they are the lost cost producers and have several times as many engineers as the U.S. does.

t: I am with you. Warren Buffett made an interesting comment about his philanthropy -- you don't need to direct it to things that are alreading attracting a lot of investment money. So, I agree with you, the Government would be better served to promote a market and let the private sector do the R&D at this point.

t- they already have federally backed incentives to power your home by solar panels. They are quite modest and I believe they may have been reduced slightly since they were initially developed. Now, if the system they use in California were adopted by the govt (I believe the federal and California incentives combine to absorb a full 50% of the cost of a PV system for your home) then we would be getting somewhere. Even up in the overcast NW I would install a PV system on a home if 50% of the cost were taken care of for me.

Patrick:
I am with you for the NW solar power. The summer tends to be sunny long enough to maybe save a little water pouring over the dam out east during the dry season. Now we just have to get the panels on the roof!!!

It is a shame that for what we spend on around 2 days at war is the 80% increase in spending on yearly solar R&D. Imagine if we took a couple of years off pummeling the world and spent it on new technology back home...now that would provide some security.

Plus the current administration is threatening other contries for doing what they are advocating at home (nukes).

Let's not make light of an Islamic autocracy which regularly threatens to blast at least one country right off the planet with nuclear weapons. Today it's Israel, next year it may be Spain, the year after that perhaps England and the USA. Having nukes in the hands of religious zealots is not good. Having a solar panel on your roof isn't going to protect you from nuclear fallout!

Having said that, governments all around the world waste all kinds of money trying to make people live 85 or 90 years instead of just 75-80 years. That's a waste! Nobody's going to have a chance to live to 90 years old if global warming kills everyone off in the mean time anyway. Stop spending money on healthcare for those over age 75 and use the savings to improve the LONG TERM health of the planet.

Please keep comments on topic. I've removed the divergent thread of posts following Sid's.
Mike

Not making light of the situation.

I wish that the administration had the foresight to spend a bit more than %0.01 of its 10 billion a month (thanks PAT) CREDIT run up to develop alternate technologies and a path out of harms way in less stable regions.

The technology developed in the US from the "investment" could be sold to other countries to "pay back" the investment.

After this administration cut NRELs budget every year they wanted to do a photo op to show how they were all for renewable energy. Problem was, NREL had to lay off so many do to budget cuts, it was not going to be much of a press party. So the administration renewed some funds at the last minute so they could hire some people back. Now that is commitment!

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