U.S. Energy Department Awards $46.2 Million in Research Grants

By Rachel Leber

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Energy Department announced on July 12 that it is awarding $46.2 million in research grants to improve solar energy technologies to 48 universities and developers of solar technology products across the U.S. This grant program is called the SunShot Initiative, and is intended to create innovative, early-stage solar power technologies aimed at lowering costs and improving reliability and efficiency. The overarching end goal for the SunShot Initiative is to reduce overall energy costs in the U.S. to 3 cents per kilowatt-hour by 2030.

The projects span two SunShot programs, the first being the Photovoltaics Research and Development 2 (PVRD2) Modules and Systems program, which will advance research in solar photovoltaic technology. Exactly $20.5 million of the grant money will go to this project, as it will support a wide variety of photovoltaics research pathways, including module design, high-risk emerging research and technology facilitating rapid installation. The second project is the Technology to Market 3 (T2M3) program, which will support 20 projects with $25.7 million of the grant money. T2M3 will select solar energy technologies and focus on research that addresses early-stage, pre-commercial risk reduction.

Some plans for the use of these grants are already underway, all of which include partial-cost-share on the part of the participating institutions. Cost share requirements will leverage additional private sector funding, yielding a total public and private investment of nearly $65 million, according to the statement from the U.S. Department of Energy. This includes Arizona State University’s plans to use $1.6 million to develop an X-ray test to evaluate the performance of thin-film modules under harsh conditions as well as the $1.37 million that Stanford University plans to use to improve a perovskite over silicon module design. In addition, Colorado State University plans to invest $1.13 million to improve thin-film manufacturing, while SolarReserve Inc. plans to contribute $2 million to research ways to reduce costs of molten salt storage.

“The SunShot Initiative is a proven driver of solar energy innovation,” SunShot Initiative Director Charlie Gay said in a recent statement. “These projects ensure there’s a pipeline of knowledge, human resources, transformative technology solutions and research to support the industry.”