Solar technologies use the sun's energy to provide electricity, heat, light, hot water, and even cooling for homes, businesses, and industry. Learn more about solar energy technologies such as photovoltaic (solar electric) systems, concentrating solar power systems, passive solar heating and daylighting, solar hot water, and solar process heat and space cooling.
NREL performs research in two major branches of solar energy:
Photovoltaics (also called solar electric systems)
Solar thermal systems.
NREL's photovoltaic (PV) research covers the full spectrum from fundamental studies in PV-related materials to commercialization and systems integration. This work includes:
Developing and improving PV cells in several material systems
Developing advanced technologies such as concentrating photovoltaics and organic photovoltaics
Characterizing PV cells, modules, and systems to improve performance and reliability
Assisting industry with standardized tests and performance models for PV devices
Helping the PV industry accelerate manufacturing capacity and commercialization.
Optimal siting of solar energy systems requires knowledge of the solar resource characteristics at any given location. NREL's solar radiation research and data collection are performed at the Solar Radiation Research Laboratory. This unique research facility measures solar radiation and other meteorological data continuously and shares the information with government agencies, industry, academia, and international laboratories and agencies. These data are used for climate change studies, atmospheric research, renewable energy conversion system testing, and more.
NREL works with the solar industry to lower the cost of solar water heating systems. Laboratory researchers assist with prototype development of new polymer (plastic) systems through modeling and optimization, characterization of system performance, and accelerated testing of materials durability.