The Solar Newsletter is an electronic newsletter that provides information on NREL's research and development of solar technologies.
To receive new issues by email, subscribe to the Solar Newsletter.SUBSCRIBE
Golden Rays — March 2018
In partnership with NREL, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is launching a challenge-based prize competition—American-Made Challenges—to re-energize innovation in U.S. manufacturing. This competition leverages the 3-D printing and small-batch manufacturing facilities that exist across the country to speed up innovation cycles through rapid prototyping and iteration. The result will lower the barriers that U.S.-based innovators face in reaching manufacturing scale. The challenges will also help connect innovators to investors and solar industry experts.
NREL and DOE are currently working to launch the first prize, focused on solar energy technologies, and will release the prize rules and open registration within the next few weeks. If you're already interested in participating, you can pre-register to follow the challenge. Full registration will be available soon.
Perovskite solar cells are a promising new type of photovoltaics that have yet to demonstrate the durability and lifespan necessary for commercial success. According to new research published in Nature Energy, a team of NREL researchers has pushed the limits of perovskite stability with a new design that employs new materials in the top and bottom layers of perovskite solar cells. In testing, an unencapsulated version of the team's perovskite solar cell held onto 94 percent of its starting efficiency after 1,000 hours of continuous use under ambient conditions. While more testing is needed to prove the cells could survive for 20 years, or more, in the field (the typical lifetime of solar panels) this study represents an important benchmark for determining that perovskite solar cells are more stable than previously thought.
As utilities increasingly add solar power to their systems, they must develop new ways to control occasional, rapid voltage swings in PV output. Duke Energy partnered with NREL and General Electric to explore one solution to control voltage—advanced distribution management systems (ADMS). In this video, hear from the NREL researchers who helped model part of Duke's grid and optimized ADMS voltage control for utility-scale solar arrays. The research brought NREL's extensive power-hardware-in-the-loop and modeling capabilities together with real data from Duke Energy and GE's advanced distribution management system.
Projects and Partnerships
NREL's new Distribution Grid Integration Unit Cost Database offers a curated, transparent source of information for assessing distribution grid integration costs associated with photovoltaics (PV). The database contains information on hardware and software costs for different components that may be used to integrate distributed solar PV onto distribution systems. More than 335 data points were collected from a variety of utilities, PV developers, technology vendors, and published research reports..
A new device developed by NREL scientists acts as a transparent window in low-light conditions, but quickly darkens in direct sunlight, thus providing both shade and electricity. Relying on advanced materials such as perovskites and single-walled carbon nanotubes, the demonstration device darkens when heated by the sun and can convert sunlight to electricity at 11.3-percent efficiency. "There is a fundamental tradeoff between a good window and a good solar cell," said Lance Wheeler, a scientist on the NREL team. "This technology bypasses that. We have a good solar cell when there's lots of sunshine and we have a good window when there's not."
NREL's PV Device Performance group is one of only a small handful of laboratories globally that offers highly accurate and certified measurements of PV performance. In a new blog, the NREL team will discuss key issues in device performance, explain measurement techniques, and present new services offered by NREL. The blog's first post explores a new technique—module self-reference—that significantly reduces uncertainty in PV module power measurements.
When David Moore started his bachelor's degree at age 40, he had already worked on encryption in the Army, managed a bar, and started his own software business. Now he's at the cutting edge of solar cell research as a staff scientist on NREL's perovskite team. Learn more about the unusual path that brought Moore to NREL in this profile.
Two NREL teams will each receive more than $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office for projects that will advance predictive modeling of solar power while improving grid reliability and efficiency. One team will focus on developing a publicly available, ensemble-based solar capability for a weather research and forecasting model. The other will design novel algorithms to create probabilistic solar power forecasts and automatically integrate these forecasts into energy management systems.
First Solar, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), and NREL have received the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners' (NARUC) Innovation Award for their work on a 300-megawatt PV plant in California. The award was given for "a groundbreaking test demonstrating that large utility-scale solar photovoltaic resources can be relied upon to provide essential reliability services necessary to enhance grid flexibility and reliability. The services include spinning reserves, load following, voltage support, ramping, and frequency regulation."
In Touch with NREL Solar
June 10–15, 2018
Drop by the Durable Module Materials (DuraMAT) Consortium booth at the conference to learn more about work by this consortium, which crosses national laboratories, on new materials and designs for PV modules.
September 10–11, 2018
Join NREL and other sponsors at this workshop to review existing bifacial PV technologies, begin setting standards, identify market potential, and improve the bankability of bifacial PV.