PV Incubator Involving Small Business and non-Federal Research Institutes Is Proposed

March 9, 2007

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE)  Solar America Initiative (SAI) work provides significant opportunities for collaboration and partnership among industry and university researchers to develop and improve solar energy technologies. Subject to Congressional appropriations, during 2007 DOE expects to issue an "incubator" solicitation. The responder to the solicitation must be a small business. The small business may team with a large company and/or university partner(s).

This "SAI PV Incubator" is targeted at research and development of PV systems and component prototypes with full functionality, produced in pilot-scale operations. It is expected that prototype technologies will have already completed proofs-of-concept for new manufacturing processes, either through contractor equipment, the NREL Process Design Integration Laboratory facilities, or other appropriate facilities. The emphasis will be on the barriers to entry for 2010 commercialization.

Through awards to be made under separate financial opportunities, DOE via NREL is supporting industry-led Technology Pathway Partnerships (TPPs) for achieving the aggressive cost goals of the SAI by 2015. For the year 2010, advances are needed to achieve prototype modules and pilot production, which will be established with this procurement. This procurement will be structured for flexibility with regard to the entrance/exit. It is expected that the subcontract duration will be 18 months.

The expected results from awards made from this planned opportunity will be a clear and direct integration of DOE basic and applied research leading to the accelerated innovation necessary for development of prototype modules and system components with associated pilot production. It is anticipated that successful participants in the Incubator will position themselves to compete for awards in the next TPP Funding Opportunity Announcement  in the 2010 timeframe.

Topic areas are expected to include, but not restricted to:

  • Novel wafer-based silicon modules
  • Polycrystalline thin films
  • Film silicon on a foreign substrate
  • High-efficiency cells, including multijunction, and concentrating photovoltaics (CPV) module concepts
  • Organic PV, dye-sensitized solar cells, or other polymer-based solar cells
  • Low-X concentration CPV systems with limited or 1-axis tracking module designs
  • Low-X Si modules, 3-10X
  • Novel inverter designs
  • Novel systems controls and monitoring
  • Novel systems integration approaches

Key characteristics of the procurement strategy are as follows:

Firm Fixed Price Awards with Price Participation

  • Deliverables have dollar amount associated with each, funds transferred upon receipt
  • Deliverables will be primarily hardware-oriented, not studies or reports.

Flexible and Cyclical

  • Period of performance: 18 months
  • Exit/entrance every 9 months
  • Solicitation open with proposals due every 9 months.

Price Participation

20% cost share from subcontractor


Small businesses only

Award Amount

Up to $2 million total over 18 months

Entrance Criterion

Coupon-scale PV cell or lab-demonstrated process; bench-scale component prototypes

Exit Criterion

Prototype modules and pilot production demonstrated


Solicitation Released - March 27, 2007
Letter of Interest Due - May 7, 2007
Awards Made - June 29, 2007