Golden Rays—July 2017

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

Hot Topics

Two solar installers secure solar panels on the roof of a residential structure.

What's Holding Back Residential PV-Plus-Storage?

How can distributed energy storage enhance grid operations? Is it cost-effective? How will costs evolve over time? Today, the answers to many of these questions largely depend on where the PV-plus-storage system is installed. And the lack of clarity makes it difficult for the industry to identify opportunities to reduce costs.

A new NREL report fills a gap in the research literature by providing granular installed system price breakdowns that include previously unknown non-hardware costs, such as those associated with the regulatory approval process. In the June cover article for Solar Industry magazine, co-author of the report, Kristen Ardani, lays out the major findings of the report and explores some of the largest barriers to PV-plus-storage deployment—such as permitting and interconnection—that the report identified.

The NREL campus appears in an image, showing the many buildings that make up the campus.

NREL Boosts Tech of Small Solar Businesses

NREL will collaborate with 14 companies, including 4 solar technology companies, under the third round of DOE's Small Business Vouchers program. The program connects U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory capabilities, such as NREL's Energy Systems Integration Facility, with American small businesses.

The four small businesses focused on solar technologies in this latest round of vouchers are:

  • Arable Labs, Inc. (New Jersey) — NREL will help to refine Arable's Pulsepod technology, which quantifies solar resources by measuring variables and reporting data via integrated radios.
  • Folsom Labs, Inc. (California) — NREL will evaluate the HelioScope technology, a modeling software that helps design solar projects.
  • Iris Photovoltaics (California) — NREL will help to scale up Iris' innovative solar panel technology that has the potential to improve the efficiency of solar panels while leveraging existing manufacturing resources.
  • Sundog Solar Technology (New York) — NREL will help to further develop an advanced reflector technology and improve the technology's weatherization design.

"Through these new projects at NREL, small businesses will gain an important global competitive advantage for their advanced energy technologies, and our scientists will gain valuable insight into industry needs," NREL SBV Program Manager Matt Ringer said.

NREL researcher Matt Reese holds up a glass substrate with strips of opaque thin film solar cells removed, so you can see parts of his face through the resulting holes.

Lightening Soldiers' Loads by Lifting PV Cells onto Flexible Surfaces

When soldiers or military supply convoys are forced to move slowly on repeated trips, they can become "targets of choice" for enemy combatants. A modern American Marine may carry 20 pounds of back-up batteries for an array of electronics. Last year, NREL embarked on a $1.5 million, three-year research and development contract with the Office of Naval Research to begin addressing this issue by developing lightweight, flexible solar cells.

Thin-film solar cells, grown on substrates such as stainless steel and titanium foils produce flexible, portable products that are ideal for solar blankets and tarps. But they typically lack the higher efficiency of cells grown on thick-glass substrates. NREL aims to combine the best of both. The intended solution: a novel high-efficiency cell that can be grown on a glass substrate and then repackaged onto thin film. "We could de-couple growth constraints from a package of choice. You could select whatever you wanted as the ideal package at the end," said Matthew Reese, an NREL staff scientist in PV research.

Must Reads


40 Years of Accomplishments and Partnerships

  • Celebrating its 40th anniversary, NREL started in 1977 as the Solar Energy Research Institute in rented office space for 40 employees. Today, NREL is a 300-acre research center and one of 17 U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories. Along the way, NREL researchers have made key contributions to many solar technologies, including high-efficiency III-V cells, thin film cells, perovskites, CSP, module reliability, solar measurements and benchmarking, and many more.

Projects and Partnerships

  • What Can the August Eclipse Teach Us about Solar Power?

    On August 21, 2017, the first total solar eclipse in almost 40 years will sweep across the continental United States. Even in areas outside the path of the totality, a significant amount of midday light will be blocked. At NREL (which will experience a 92% eclipse), researchers will be monitoring two large PV arrays to compare their performance with simulations. NREL will also be helping grid operators across the western United States and Canada prepare for and interpret data from the eclipse.

  • Building a Midscale PV Project? NREL Has Resources for All 50 States (Plus D.C.)

    As part of an effort to expand the midscale solar market, NREL has compiled an inventory of government and utility policies that affect midscale solar projects for all 50 states. Intended to inform developers of "midmarket" projects (between 50 kilowatts and 2 megawatts), the inventory highlights policies that could incentivize installations or hinder them. The inventory will be periodically updated as policies evolve.

  • PV Module Reliability Experts Gather for DuraMAT Workshop

    On May 22 and 23, 2017, the Bay Area Photovoltaic Consortium and the Durable Module Materials Consortium (DuraMAT) convened a workshop at Stanford University. "The workshop provided a great opportunity to identify future research needs for durable module packaging and multi-institutional collaboration opportunities," said Teresa Barnes, Director of the DuraMAT Consortium.

    DuraMAT's next workshop is scheduled for Nov. 7–8, 2017 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


Bryan Palmintier Recognized with Rising Star Award for Commercialization

Bryan Palmintier's research explores the integration of renewable and efficient energy systems, with a focus on developing advanced electric power system models and analysis tools. He received one of this year's Rising Star awards, which recognizes employees with fewer than six years of service at NREL who have demonstrated increasing engagement with the lab's commercialization and technology transfer process.

In Touch with NREL Solar


North American Solar Eclipse

August 21, 2017

Solar Power International

September 10–13, 2017

Did you know?

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NREL currently has more than 800 patented or patent-pending technologies available for licensing, with over 300 of those technologies in the solar category.