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DOE Invests $40 Million in Solar Technologies Aimed at Grid Decarbonization

DOE Invests $40 Million in Solar Technologies Aimed at Grid Decarbonization

The Department of Energy (DOE) recently awarded $40 million, supporting 40 solar projects, that will help put American on a path to decarbonizing the energy grid. The White House sees solar as a key enabler to achieving the administration’s goal of reaching 100% clean electricity by 2035. Ultimately, the projects will aim to reduce solar costs by lengthening the lifespan of photovoltaic (PV) solar technologies from 30 to 50 years and making solar-thermal power (CSP) technologies more efficient.
“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, who spoke to ASME members during this year’s inaugural ASME Policy Impact event. “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 Biden administration is taking a whole-of-government approach to its decarbonization agenda. DOE believes that solar will play an important role in decarbonization in the coming years and believes that by 2035 solar could make up 40% of the nation’s electricity if the U.S. adopts policies that support grid flexibility and storage and development of advanced technologies. In addition to investing in solar technologies directly through these 40 PV- and CSP-focused research projects, DOE is looking to inform future research needs with a request for information for future awards in solar manufacturing and perovskite photovoltaics and is asking the public to weigh in.
The 40 projects will focus on either PV or CSP technology in one of four areas as outlined by DOE:
  • 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 from traditionally underrepresented groups, as well as early-career researchers  who have never applied or been selected for DOE funding. (Total award amount: $6 million)
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