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NREL Funds Research into Low-Cost Solar Electricity

Media contact:
George Douglas (303) 275-4096
e:mail: george_douglas@nrel.gov

Golden, Colo., Dec. 8, 1997 -- C Contracts worth about $60 million over three years will be awarded under the Thin Film PV (photovoltaic) Partnership program at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Recipients of the money will research ways to lower the cost of producing electricity from sunlight using photovoltaic semiconductors that can be applied as thin films on a variety of inexpensive backings. Today, photovoltaic power costs about $6 a watt. The goal is to develop thin film technology that can reduce that cost to $1 a watt, making clean, renewable solar-powered photovoltaics competitive with electricity produced by fossil fuels.

Examples of PV products using thin film technology include photovoltaic roofing shingles and lightweight, flexible panels used by backpackers and boaters. When cost goals are met, PV will be competitive with conventional energy sources for significant amounts of electricity. Any use of PV that displaces fossil-fuel-generated electricity reduces emissions of greenhouse gases that have been linked to global warming. The Partnership Program represents the successful implementation of DOE's long-term commitment to developing cost-competitive photovoltaics.

Researchers in thin film photovoltaics work with such semiconductors as amorphous and polycrystalline silicon, cadmium telluride (CdTe), and copper indium diselenide (CuInSe2).

The Thin Film PV Partnership builds on the successes of similar DOE/NREL-sponsored research programs over the last decade. Those programs developed amorphous silicon and film silicon as substantial, commercial photovoltaic technologies and helped create the thin film CuInSe2 and cadmium telluride technologies, which now are being commercialized by several U.S. companies.

Teams that will receive funding submitted proposals in six categories: technology partnerships to bring thin film photovoltaics to production; research and development partnerships in CuInSe2, CdTe, amorphous silicon and thin film silicon; and a special topic on advanced, multijunction designs.

The special topic is co-sponsored by the Electric Power Research Institute, which will provide $400,000 to match a similar amount provided by DOE through NREL.

The exact amount to be awarded to each institution is under negotiation, based on available funding. There were 63 requests for funding, totaling $120 million. Of the $60 million to be awarded, NREL will contribute $35 million. The rest of the money comes from corporate partners.

Universities will receive about $4 million of the $11 million in federal funds expected during the first year of the program. Small businesses will get about $4 million, and large businesses will receive the remaining $3 million. About $5 million in private funds is expected to be invested in the Partnership in the first year.

A list of the organizations to receive funding follows.
Technology Partners are U.S. leaders in developing thin film PV for near-term commercialization. They are funded to perform critical research leading to the introduction of innovative thin film PV modules. R&D Partners are universities and companies doing future-oriented research to assure that new ideas are developed to continue the improvement of thin film PV, while also building a scientific base for future progress toward truly low-cost PV.

Technology Partner Awards

Newark, Del.

BP Solar
Fairfield, Calif.

Princeton, N.J.

Global Solar Energy
Tucson, Ariz.

Optical Coatings Lab
Santa Rosa, Calif.

Siemens Solar Industries
Camarillo, Calif.

Solar Cells Inc.
Toledo, Ohio

Newtown, Pa.

United Solar Systems Corp.
Troy, Mich.

CuInSe2 R&D Partner Awards

Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colo.

Golden, Colo.

Florida Solar Energy Center
Coco Beach, Fla.

International Solar Electric Technology
Inglewood, Calif.

Materials Research Group
Golden, Colo.

University of Florida
Gainesville, Fla.

Washington State University
Pullman, Wash.

CdTe R&D Partners

Colorado School of Mines
Golden, Colo.

Golden, Colo.

University of South Florida
Tampa, Fla.

University of Toledo
Toledo, Ohio

Weizmann Institute of Technology
Rehovot, Israel

Amorphous Silicon R&D Partner Awards

Colorado School of Mines
Golden, Colo.

Energy Conversion Devices
Troy, Mich.

Harvard University
Cambridge, Mass.

Iowa State University
Ames, Iowa

University of Oregon
Eugene, Ore.

Pennsylvania State University
State College, Pa.

Syracuse University
Syracuse, N.Y.

University of California-Los Angeles
Los Angeles, Calif.

University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, N.C.

University of Utah
Provo, Utah

Thin Film Silicon R&D Partner Awards

MV Systems
Golden, Colo.

Special Topic Awards

Institute of Energy Conversion/ University of Delaware
Newark, Del.

Pennsylvania State University
State College, Pa.

University of Illinois
Champagne, Ill.

University of South Florida
Tampa, Fla.


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