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News Release: DOE to Provide Up to $12 Million to Support Early Stage Solar Technologies

January 20, 2010

Golden, Colo., January 20, 2010 – U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced that the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will invest $12 million in total funding ($10 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) to support the development of early stage solar energy technologies.

The Photovoltaic (PV) Incubator Program partners NREL with companies that have developed new solar cell technologies to help move the technologies to commercial scale manufacturing. Over the long-term, these companies could support new domestic high-tech manufacturing jobs.

The partnerships announced today support DOE’s goal of making solar energy cost-competitive with conventional forms of electricity by 2015 and the Obama Administration’s commitment to a clean energy economy.

 “These projects will help move novel technologies to commercial scale and ensure that the U.S. is a world leader in next-generation, cost-effective solar technologies,” said Secretary Chu. “These solar photovoltaic incubator awards will help accelerate the pace of innovation for these start-up companies to bring their technologies to market.”

These partnerships leverage the technical expertise of NREL. The Laboratory will provide guidance and technical assistance to help the companies overcome common challenges for small scale or pilot manufacturing. Companies awarded under the incubator program will work closely with NREL to move prototype and pre-commercial PV technologies into pilot and full-scale manufacturing. The anticipated subcontracts, up to $3 million each, will be awarded as 18-month phased subcontracts with payment made on completion of project milestones.

 "Working with NREL researchers reduces the implementation risk associated with new solar technologies and increases the likelihood that the performance and reliability objectives can be achieved in the near future,” NREL Incubator Manager Martha Symko-Davies said.

The PV Technology Incubator project represents a novel DOE business approach. Technical benchmarks with firm due dates are identified in each proposal. Subcontractors will receive funding only after each deliverable has been tested and verified by NREL to have met the predetermined targets.

The partnership projects are subject to negotiation:


Alta Devices, Inc., Santa Clara, up to $3 million

Alta Devices will focus efforts on developing an innovative high-efficiency (more than 20 percent), low-cost compound-semiconductor photovoltaic module, with market entry expected in 2011.

Solar Junction Corp., San Jose, up to $3 million

Solar Junction will develop a manufacturing process to produce a very high efficiency multijunction cell. These high performing cells will be used by concentrating PV (CPV) manufacturers to produce lower cost CPV systems.

TetraSun, Saratoga, up to $3 million

TetraSun will focus efforts on a back surface passivation for high efficiency crystalline silicon solar cells. This effort will result in a high efficiency low-cost C-Si solar cell.

North Carolina

Semprius, Inc., Durham, up to $3 million

Semprius will focus efforts toward a massively parallel, microcell-based CPV receiver. This approach combines the benefits of unique-to-solar manufacturing techniques with the performance and operational benefits of microcell concentrating photovoltaics.

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