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A collage of solar photographs. The first photo shows a parabolic solar trough at the Eldorado Valley site. The second is of a gird-tied high-concentration solar cell MicroDish. And the third photo shows the photovoltaic panels at Oberlin College's Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental studies.

Learn About Solar Energy

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.

Solar energy research at NREL includes photovoltaics, solar radiation, solar systems integration, and solar thermal.

Photovoltaic Research

NREL's capabilities in photovoltaics (PV) range across fundamental and applied research and development, including theory and modeling, materials design and deposition, measurements and characterization, and reliability testing and engineering.

PV research is coordinated and performed within the Materials and Chemical Science and Technology (MCST) directorate.

Solar Radiation Research

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.

Solar Systems Integration

NREL research addresses the technical challenges associated with integrating PV technologies into a stable grid. This research is closely coordinated with work in the National Center for Photovoltaics and the Electrical Systems Integration Facility. Below are the key areas of solar systems integration:

Solar Thermal Research

NREL researchers are improving concentrating solar power (CSP) and solar heating technologies.

Concentrating Solar Power

NREL plays a leadership role in the following:

  • Analyzing cost and performance of solar systems
  • Developing parabolic trough technology for solar electricity generation
  • Supporting the development of new designs and manufacturing processes for solar components and systems with an emphasis on improved performance, reliability, and service life.

Learn more about concentrating solar power research at NREL.

Solar Heating

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.

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TroughNet - Parabolic Trough Solar Power Network