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Golden Rays – March 2017

The Solar Newsletter is an electronic newsletter that provides information on NREL's research and development of solar technologies.

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Hot Topics

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ENERGISE Supports Solar on the Grid

On Jan. 31, 2017, the Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative announced up to $30 million in new projects to help integrate solar energy into the nation's electric grid. The Enabling Extreme Real-Time Grid Integration of Solar Energy (ENERGISE) funding program will support up to 13 projects that will develop a range of technologies: forecasting tools, up-to-the-minute data acquisition, and new hardware, among others. These software and hardware solutions will be highly scalable, data-driven, and capable of fully optimizing system operation and planning.

Two of the ENERGISE projects were awarded to researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. One will develop, test and deploy a data enhanced hierarchical control architecture that adopts a hybrid approach to grid control. A centralized control layer will be complemented by distributed control algorithms for solar inverters and autonomous control of grid edge devices. The other NREL project will develop a novel control scheme that provides system-wide monitoring and control using a small fraction of the active devices on the grid.

Learn more about the ENERGISE funding program in this DOE press release.

Snow Problem? No Problem for Solar Panels

Winter may seem like an off-season for solar panels, but thanks to the SunShot Initiative's Regional Test Centers, solar panels are demonstrating their year-round resilience. At the test centers, researchers are studying the performance of solar panels in snowy weather and other harsh environments.

They've found that light snow slides right off solar panels and heavy snow doesn't fully prevent the panels from generating power. Even buried under snow, forward scattering brings more light to the panels than you might expect. Another interesting finding: frameless solar panels shed snow much more easily than framed panels.

The Regional Test Centers are also helping to test the new ideas and materials emerging from the Durable Module Materials Consortium. The DuraMat Consortium, led by NREL, is investigating how the materials used in packaging and mounting solar panels perform in different environments. The goal is to reduce PV costs and increase field lifetimes and the Regional Test Centers are helping to test for those characteristics.

Learn more about solar panels in the winter by reading this article by Dr. Charlie Gay, who leads the SunShot Initiative, and watching the accompanying Department of Energy video.

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Promise of Polycrystalline Perovskites

Considerable research into perovskites at NREL and elsewhere has proved the material's effectiveness at converting sunlight into electricity, routinely topping 20 percent efficiency.

With prior studies into perovskites focusing on bulk recombination, one area left unexamined until now concerned the surface recombination in lead iodide perovskites. NREL's scientists determined recombination in other parts of a methylammonium perovskite film isn't as important as what's happening on the surface, both the top and bottom.

Matthew Beard and his colleagues within NREL's Chemistry and Nanoscience Center studied surface recombination in single-crystal and polycrystalline films using transient reflection spectroscopy. Their findings, top and bottom surfaces limit carrier lifetime in lead iodide perovskite films, appear in Nature Energy.

Must Reads


Projects and Partnerships

  • New PV Standards Boost Investor Confidence

    For many investors, low-cost solar panels often come with an added cost: independent inspectors. If errors in the manufacturing process reduce the performance and reliability of the panels, the investor and end user both suffer. To ensure panel quality, many investors will send inspectors to watch over the manufacturing process, slowing progress and costing end users millions of dollars.

    New international standards for photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing now offer a cheaper, more consistent alternative. Developed through a collaboration of the National Renewable Energy Lab, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan, and the International Electrotechnical Commission, the IEC 62941 standard provides an international basis for quality in PV panels.

    Under the new standard, manufacturers must obtain IEC certification, establish ongoing reliability testing, address potential product failures throughout the life of a product, and obtain certification on how to trace products in case of a recall or warranty issue. Already adopted by many major PV manufacturers, the standard is giving investors new confidence in the quality of panels and helping to drive down costs.

    Read more about the new IEC 62941 standard and the international task force behind it on the U.S. Department of Energy website.

  • Solar Insights from the 2016 RPS Summit

    Late last year, state administrators, analysts, federal officials and other stakeholders gathered in Washington, DC for the annual Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) Summit. Among the presenters was Lori Bird, Principal Analyst at NREL's Market and Policy Impact Analysis Group. Her presentation explored the impact of RPS implementation on energy and electricity system trends. Other presentations and discussions centered on the U.S. Department of Energy's Quadrennial Energy Review, RPS best practices, and access to solar power for low-income households, among other topics. Get a summary of the summit on NREL's Solar Technical Assistance Team blog.

In Touch With NREL Solar

Opportunities to Partner

New Internship Opportunity for Graduate Students in Solar Research

A new pilot program will give graduate students interested in solar power research an opportunity to access the expertise and equipment available at NREL. Students' proposed research for the internship must align with an ongoing SuNLaMP research project at NREL. A living stipend will be provided and research projects can extend between 3 and 36 months. Applications are due by April 30, 2017. Apply on the NREL website.

Opportunity with Office of Science Graduate Student Research Program

DOE is offering a unique collaboration opportunity for researchers to partner with graduate students involved in the Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) Program. The application deadline for this partnership is May 16.


American Physical Society

March 13–17, 2017

Photovoltaic Operations and Maintenance Webinar

March 15, 2017, noon–1 p.m. ET

Energy Storage Permitting, Interconnection, and Analysis Webinar

April 5, 2017, 2–3 p.m. ET

Did you know?

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NREL has a blog dedicated to state and local efforts to develop solar markets. Members of NREL's Solar Technical Assistance Team (STAT) write weekly posts related to events, solar policy analysis, and technical assistance outcomes. Check it out!