The Solar Newsletter is a monthly electronic newsletter that provides information on NREL's research and development of solar technologies.
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Golden Rays — December 2016
Can Smarter Solar Inverters Save the Grid?
Smart inverters are poised to fill a big need in the fast-evolving electric-utility industry. As more and more homeowners put PV panels on their roofs, the power they are supplying is reducing the need for big, centralized generating plants. The upshot is that increasing numbers of these traditional power plants are getting retired, and grid operators are scrambling for ways to keep their networks running with the same high level of reliability that their customers have long taken for granted. The combination of smart inverters and new control methods are essential to helping utilities transition to the grid of the future where vast amounts of wind- and solar-generated electricity will be the norm. Learn more by reading the article in IEEE Spectrum.
Beyond the Panel: Looking at PV in a Different Light
In late October, NREL hosted a workshop titled "Beyond the Panel: Looking at PV in a Different Light." Approximately 80 people gathered from the Department of Defense, private industry, and the research community to discuss a range of flexible, portable, lightweight, and integrated PV applications. The overarching goal was to unite the industry leaders in flexible PV with those interested remote industrial site PV, and the built environment.
Four main topics—motivations and markets, what the needs are, what's out there and where we are headed, and what the future could look like—encouraged discussions on the variety of industry needs, research progress, and new potential solutions. Breakout sessions also provided an opportunity for people with different expertise to work together to share ideas and strategies regarding portable/remote power, buildings and transportation, the developing world, and consumer product integration.
In addition, a networking session helped foster potential new partnerships and ideas for future progress. Workshop attendees will be invited to an upcoming symposium on flexible PV at the 2017 IEEE PVSC conference.
NREL Adds Solar Array Field
The newest solar panel modules are being installed at NREL to measure how their efficiency changes over time. That change—known as the degradation rate—will be posted on NREL's website along with the manufacturers' names. To start, 50 solar modules made by three manufacturers will be deployed in a new solar array on NREL's campus in 2017. Then, each year for the following two years, additional sets of 50 modules made by other companies will be added.
Learn more by reading the NREL feature article.
Projects and Partnerships
New solar data analysis from NREL explores the affordability of solar using a "savings to investment" ratio. This metric captures the ability to recover one's investment in solar based on the utility bill savings resulting from the solar energy generated by a given solar energy system. Learn more by reading latest the SunShot blog.
Strategy Proposed for Stable, Commercial Perovskites
NREL—in collaboration with renowned scientists from Korea, Switzerland, and Japan—has proposed a strategy to overcome commercialization hurdles for perovskite solar cells (PSCs), which was recently published in Nature Energy.
The joint effort, initiated by Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea, includes:
- Developing a reproducible manufacturing method that manages grain boundaries and interfacial charge transport
- Using electroluminescence as an effective metric or tool for evaluating PSC quality
- Realizing the importance of the design of device structures with interface engineering to yield performance that is stable and free of hysteresis
- Recovering and utilizing the lead in PSCs to address environmental concerns
- Ensuring the advance of practical applications through reliable device characterization.
To find out more about this strategy, read the full NREL news release.
Gen3 CSP Demonstration Roadmap
NREL and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), working with other national laboratories, universities, and industry, are developing a "Gen3" Roadmap for concentrating solar power (CSP). The objective of the roadmap, which will be published in January 2017, is to identify one or more viable research paths that can lead to a successful demonstration of a next-generation CSP system.
Next-generation Gen3 systems will incorporate high-temperature receivers and thermal energy storage operating at temperatures greater than 700°C to drive advanced, highly efficient, supercritical carbon dioxide Brayton cycles. NREL and SNL formed a technical review committee (TRC) to provide guidance throughout the mapping process. The committee includes a broad group of CSP stakeholders, such as developers, utilities, EPCs, regulators, and Supercritical CO2 turbine manufacturers.
The TRC committee convened at NREL in late November to review a draft of the roadmap prior to publication. Comments and suggestions from the TRC are being incorporated into the roadmap prior to final release.
In Touch With NREL Solar
Opportunities to Partner
NREL Supports More than 100 DOE Incubator Companies
In September, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the eleventh round of Incubator awardees, part of a program that aims to shorten the time it takes for a young business or company to develop an innovative product concept and make it commercially available.
Since the inception of the Solar Incubator program in 2007, NREL has supported more than 100 companies. DOE provides funding to NREL to leverage existing resources, capabilities, and expertise to validate or enhance each awardee's unique project. Through this unique model, NREL is able to quickly and effectively support each of these companies with technical assistance, on-site testing, validation, or verification activities without the complications of several independent contracts between NREL and small, agile, fast-moving startups.
For example, NREL has helped companies understand the industry landscape; test new inverter, photovoltaic, and racking technologies; validate remote assessments and complicated bill complications; and modeled new approaches to operations and maintenance, energy storage, cell manufacture, or installation methodologies. NREL supports each company with a unique scope and timeline designed around their technology-to-market funding award and their desired impacts on the marketplace.
Learn more about NREL's support of the Incubator program, and Joe Simon, who leads these efforts.
Join the Bright Minds Challenge
NREL is supporting the first Bright Minds Challenge, which is on the search for innovative solutions and new materials that will fast-forward the movement towards 100% renewable energy.
Whether they are academics, entrepreneurs, technologists, or enthusiasts, Bright Minds are needed who've hit on something big, such as a:
- Renewable energy solution that can significantly advance the potential for solar or energy storage.
- Technology with a working prototype that is ready to scale up and patent-ready, or that you already have a patent for.
Three New Opportunities to Partner with NREL
DOE has announced three new funding opportunities. Concept papers are due this month for the following three open-funding opportunities from SunShot, totaling $65 million:
- Funding Opportunity Announcement: Technology to Market 3 (Incubator 12, SolarMat 5) — Concept papers due December 12, 2016
- Funding Opportunity Announcement: Photovoltaics Research and Development 2: Modules and Systems (PVRD2) — Concept papers due December 14, 2016
- Funding Opportunity Announcement: Solar Forecasting 2 — Concept papers due December 30, 2016
Contact us at Solar@NREL.gov for information on partnering with NREL on any of these opportunities.
NREL Seeking Graduate Students for HOPE 2017
NREL is holding the Hands-On PV Experience (HOPE) workshop in Golden, Colorado, July 23–29, 2017. HOPE provides graduate students at United States' universities the opportunity to spend a week at NREL to learn many things about solar energy, including how solar cells are made, how a module is constructed and deployed. Participants also network with NREL scientists and other researchers from across the country. This intense, one-week experience has helped past participants enhance their degrees and find new collaborators.
Applications for the HOPE workshop are due March 1, 2017, and it requires input from students and their professor(s). Visit the NREL website to learn more.
February 28–March 2, 2017
Did you know?
It is estimated that nearly 240,000 people in the United States work in solar.
We want to hear from you! Please send your suggestions, comments, and questions to Solar@NREL.gov.