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Inaugural History of the National Center for Photovoltaics

In November of 1996, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the newly formed National Center for Photovoltaics (NCPV) to be the focal point for developing technology and disseminating information about photovoltaics (PV) in the United States.

When created, the NCPV's long-term goals were for PV modules and systems to reach still higher efficiencies with improved reliability, while lowering costs. Then, as now, it was essential to keep the research pipeline full with further innovation and with continued technical advances flowing from a solid scientific understanding.

The NCPV, based at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), was built on the core set of facilities and expert staff at the national laboratories, leveraging additional resources at universities, industry, and other federal programs into a united effort and accelerating the advance of PV as an industry and energy source.

At its creation, NCPV drew on the core expertise of the following organizations:

  • DOE National Laboratories
    • National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Golden, Colorado)
    • Sandia National Laboratories (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
    • Brookhaven National Laboratory (Upton, New York)
  • DOE University Centers of Excellence in Photovoltaics:
    • Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, Georgia)
    • Institute of Energy Conversion at the University of Delaware (Newark, Delaware)
  • DOE Regional Experiment Stations:
    • Southeast Regional Experiment Station (Cocoa, Florida)
    • Southwest Technology Development Institute (Las Cruces, New Mexico)
  • Universities
  • Industry partners.


The key objectives of the NCPV were initially stated as follows:

  • Communicate information

    The NCPV will be the focal point for PV information, education, and outreach, which is a particularly important activity in promoting international markets.

  • Provide vision

    The NCPV will strategically guide, direct, and coordinate the National PV Program to ensure the best use of our national laboratory and university research capabilities. 

  • Seek opportunities

    The NCPV will facilitate strategic partnerships and alliances with domestic and international stakeholders to overcome market and institutional barriers.



The NCPV was created with the vision that it would provide benefits to the broader community.

  • Industry — The most important measure of success for the NCPV will be to accelerate the already rapid progress in PV technology and to enhance the worldwide leadership of the U.S. PV industry. But there are several other direct benefits to industry as a whole, as well as benefits to specific PV companies.

  • End-users and investors — Other stakeholders in the PV community, such as potential end-users and investors, will also benefit from the NCPV. With the broad array of renewable energy technologies and cross-cutting capabilities such as solar resource assessment available at NREL, the NCPV will provide a focus for information transfer and a link to these capabilities.

  • U.S. taxpayers — The benefits are many, which include the economic contributions of a rapidly growing, high-technology industry as well as providing thousands of jobs. The ultimate beneficiary of the success of PV, however, will be people receiving clean, abundant energy every place the sun shines.