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Solar panels line the rooftop of the parking garage at the south table mountain campus of NREL.

National Center for Photovoltaics

The National Center for Photovoltaics (NCPV) works to advance the state of the art across the full spectrum of photovoltaic (PV) research and development at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Our cutting-edge research focuses on boosting solar cell conversion efficiencies; lowering the cost of solar cells, modules, and systems; and improving the reliability of PV components and systems. The scientific advances and industry support of NCPV scientists and engineers serve as a foundation for the U.S. PV community. In particular, the NCPV's efforts contribute to the above goals through high-impact successes in fundamental research, advanced materials and devices, and technology development and through valuable collaborations and support of universities, the PV industry, and PV users.

Our scientists are pursuing critical activities that are also helping to accomplish the goal of the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative—to make large-scale solar energy systems cost-competitive with other energy sources at low grid penetrations by 2020.

We conduct our research in collaboration with universities and the solar industry—including the Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies (QESST) Center and the Bay Area PV Consortium (BAPVC)—through research partnerships and through direct support of PV R&D performed within the Materials and Chemical Science and Technology Directorate.

Our R&D described in the list below emphasizes innovation in various PV technologies. But our technical expertise transfers to and is being applied to other technology areas and across a range of applications, including: fuel cells, hydrogen storage, photoelectrochemistry, windows, batteries, thermoelectrics, and opto-electronics/lighting.

Areas of Focus

Our PV research covers the following wide range of topics.

Measurements and Characterization. Device Performance; Analytical Microscopy and Imaging Science; Interfacial and Surface Science; and Electro-Optical Characterization.

Chemistry and Physics of Materials and Devices. High-Efficiency Crystalline PV; (Silicon; III-V Multijunctions; Hybrid Tandems); Thin Films; and Emerging materials and devices, including Perovskites, Organic photovoltaics, Quantum dots, Carbon nanotubes, and 2-D materials.

Synthesis and Processing of Materials. III-V Deposition; Nanomaterial Synthesis; Thin-Film Processing/Thin-Film Deposition; and Catalysts, Fuel Cells, and Batteries.

Materials by Design. Materials Discovery; Integrating theory, experiment, and characterization through the Office of Science-funded Center for Next Generation of Materials by Design.

Reliability. Real-Time PV and Solar Resource Testing; Accelerated Testing and Analysis; Systems Engineering; and Systems Integration.

Techno-Economic Analysis. Technology Analysis; Market Analysis, in collaboration with NREL's Strategic Energy Analysis Center.

Modeling and Theory. Device Modeling; Process Modeling; and High-Performance-Computing Theoretical Studies.

Manufacturing Prototyping. Webline Activities; Roll-to-Roll Manufacturing for PV, batteries, and fuel cells; within NREL's Science and Technology Facility (S&TF) and the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF).


Greg Wilson

Co-Director of the National Center for Photovoltaics


Sarah Kurtz

Co-Director of the National Center for Photovoltaics


Mary Werner

NREL Solar Program Manager


Visit the NREL news section for a complete list of NREL press releases and feature stories related to PV.