News Release: NREL Seeks Proposals, Announces Awards for Photovoltaic Technology Incubator Program

June 9, 2009

The U. S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is seeking project proposals as part of recently announced DOE funding to accelerate commercialization of solar energy technologies.  NREL also announced partnerships with 13 U.S. small solar businesses, which have the capability to enter the market by 2012.

PV Technology Incubator Proposals Sought

The Photovoltaic (PV) Technology Incubator program represents a significant partnering with U.S. industry to help speed commercialization of PV research and development to meet aggressive cost and installation goals.

“The PV Incubator is focused on enabling small business in the U.S. to accelerate prototype and pre-commercial technologies toward pilot and full-scale production,” said NREL Senior Supervisor Martha Symko-Davies. “The companies are partnered with experts and capabilities at NREL, which reduces project implementation risk, quickly overcomes R&D hurdles, and increases the likelihood that the performance and reliability objectives can be achieved.”

The anticipated program funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is $9 million. The subcontracts, up to $3 million each, will be awarded as 18 month phased subcontracts. Go to for proposal information.

The primary objective of the PV Incubator program is to shorten the timeline for companies to transition prototype and pre-commercial PV technologies into pilot and full-scale manufacture. Applications are expected to focus on a limited number of high impact areas that are on the critical path to scaling-up technology. The minimum entrance criteria are demonstrated PV cells or process lab devices or modules. The successful exit criteria is for prototype modules and pilot production demonstration at greater than 3 megawatts a year. 

PV Technology Pre-Incubator Awards Announced

            The PV Technology Pre-Incubator program bridges the gap between the concept verification stage of a technology and the development of a commercially viable prototype. This program is aimed at small businesses that have the capability to enter the market by 2012, enabling electricity close to grid parity. The rapid research and development advancements of these innovative technology concepts will result in prototypes with projected manufacturing costs of less than $1/watt. The total anticipated subcontracts under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is $6 million. A detailed, state-by-state list of proposals selected for negotiations follows.


Banyan Energy, Inc. (Kensington) will develop a flat Aggregated Total Internal Reflection (ATIR) optic for moderate concentrating photovoltaic systems.  This innovative design will result in a high optical efficiency concentrator with a uniquely low profile. $500,000

Crystal Solar, Inc.  (Santa Clara) will develop thin crystal silicon solar cells on ceramic substrates.  This advance aims to reduce the manufacturing cost of silicon by reducing the losses associated with wafer generation and reducing the thickness of the resulting silicon wafer. $500,000

International Solar Electric Technology, Inc. (Chatsworth) will develop low cost, monolithically integrated, printed CuInGaSe2 modules on flexible stainless steel substrates.  This project is working towards the realization of high performance, flexible Copper Indium Gallium Diselenide (CuInGaSe2) with low cost manufacturing techniques and possessing the benefits of monolithic module integration. $456,006

TiSol, LLC (Pasadena) will develop a viable technology for thin film deposition in open atmosphere using a unique flame synthesis methodology. This technological development targets reducing the cost and increasing the deployment of dye sensitized solar cells through a reel-to-reel fabrication of layers within the dye cell. $499,100


Ascent Solar Technologies, Inc. (Littleton) will develop Zinc Magnesium Oxide (ZnMgO) window layers enabling high performance mid-bandgap CuInGaSe2 on polyimide modules. This offers the potential to increase the performance of the CuInGaSe2 device through an increase in the absorber bandgap.  This work is also an important step towards the realization of CuInGaSe2–based tandem cells. $315,037


EPIR Technologies, Inc. (Bolingbrook) will develop a high efficiency single-crystal Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) solar cell.  The goal of the activity is to lay the foundation and determine the viability of a CdTe-based solution to high efficiency concentrating photovoltaic solar cells. $500,000

MicroLink Devices (Niles) will develop high efficiency, low-cost, multijunction solar cells based on epitaxial liftoff and wafer bonding.  These approaches are combined to create innovative cell architecture with the potential to surpass the current state-of-the-art in high efficiency multijunction solar cells. $500,000


1366 Technologies, Inc. (Lexington) will develop a kerfless wafering technique for the production of silicon wafers.  This wafer production process aims to reduce costs through a more efficient production of silicon wafers. $500,000

Lightwave Power Inc. (Cambridge), together with Iowa State University, will develop a novel roll-to-roll photonic-enhanced thin film solar cell. This new approach will significantly raise performance levels through increased long wavelength absorption resulting in increased current collection. $450,000

Vanguard Solar, Inc. (Sudbury) will develop a novel nanostructured II/VI semiconductor-based thin-film photovoltaic cell.  The outcome of this will be a manufacturable thin-film device with low cost and high efficiency. $500,000

North Carolina

Semprius, Inc. (Durham) will optimize the primary and secondary optics for a transfer-printed microcell-based concentrating photovoltaic module. This approach combines the benefits of unique-to-solar manufacturing techniques with the performance and operational benefits of microcell concentrating photovoltaics. $500,000


SpectraWatt, Inc. (Hillsboro) will improve silicon solar cell efficiency through the use of an additive nano-structured material.  This project aims to increase the performance of standard multicrystalline-Silicon solar cells solar cells through increased current collection in a way that does not require modifications to existing manufacturing process streams. $500,000


Luna Innovations Incorporated (Danville) will investigate new acceptor molecules for the development of improved high efficiency organic photovoltaic cells.  In combination with advances in donor materials, this project aims to achieve record organic photovoltaic solar cell efficiencies. $499,994


NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.


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—Heather Lammers