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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it will invest up to $13.7 million over three years for 11 university-led projects that will focus on developing advanced solar photovoltaic (PV) technology manufacturing processes and products. These projects are integral to President Bush’s Solar America Initiative, which aims to make solar energy cost-competitive with conventional forms of electricity by 2015. Increasing the use of solar energy is also critical to diversifying our nation’s energy sources in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on foreign oil. Combined with a minimum university and industry cost share of 20%, up to $17.4 million will be invested in these projects.
“Harnessing the natural and abundant power of the sun and more cost-effectively converting it into energy has enormous potential to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide greater stability in electricity costs,” said DOE Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander Karsner.
Universities selected for these projects will leverage fundamental understanding of materials and PV devices to help industry partners advance manufacturing processes and products. These projects have the potential to significantly reduce the cost of electricity produced by PV from current levels of $0.18-$0.23 per kWh to $0.05-$0.10 per kWh by 2015, a price that is competitive in markets nationwide. Each university will work closely with an industry partner to ensure that the projects retain a commercialization focus and that results are quickly transitioned into market ready-products and manufacturing processes. Additionally, students will be exposed to diverse PV-related commercialization efforts, enhancing workforce development in an effort to increase competitiveness and retain qualified scientists in the growing domestic PV research and development industry.
Projects were selected in response to the DOE’s June 20, 2007, Funding Opportunity Announcement, University Photovoltaic Process and Product Development Support, which seeks to strengthen university involvement in the rapidly growing PV industry. Negotiations between selected applicants and the DOE will begin immediately to determine final project plans and funding levels. Funding is subject to appropriations from Congress. Some of the selected projects include:
California Institute of Technology with Spectrolab: 100 mm Engineered InP on Si Laminate Substrates for InP based Multijunction Solar Cells. Indium phosphide (InP) is a very desirable substrate to form multijunction solar cells upon, but it is cost prohibitive even for high-performance cells. This project aims to reduce InP layer thickness by a factor of 10 by bonding a thin layer of InP to an inexpensive silicon laminate substrate, enabling a cost-effective, scaleable InP-based multijunction cell process. In turn, this will open a new design space for high-efficiency multijunction solar cells. The DOE will provide up to $837,000 for this approximately $1 million project.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology with CaliSolar, Inc. and BP Solar, Inc: Defect Engineering, Cell Processing, and Modeling for High-Performance, Low-Cost Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics. This project will characterize defects and engineer their distribution within a solar cell to close the efficiency gap between industrial multicrystalline and high-efficiency monocrystalline silicon cells while preserving the cost advantage of these low-cost, high-volume substrates. The project is targeting 18-22% efficient cells at manufacturing costs of less than $1 per peak watt. The DOE will provide up to $1.5 million for this approximately $1.9 million project.
Pennsylvania State University with Honeywell: Organic Semiconductor Heterojunction Solar Cells for Efficient, Low-Cost, Large Area Scalable Solar Energy Conversion. Organic solar cells hold promise to drastically lower costs but currently have low conversion efficiencies due to drawbacks in the structure of the junction interface. This project will focus on using highly ordered, high-surface-area titanium dioxide nanotube arrays in combination with organic semiconductors to fabricate low-cost solar cells with efficiencies of greater than 7%. The DOE will provide up to $1,231,843 for this approximately $1.5 million project.
University of Delaware Institute of Energy Conversion with Dow Corning: Development of a Low-Cost Insulated Foil Substrate for CIGS Photovoltaics. Currently, direct formation of flexible copper indium gallium selenium (CIGS) modules is limited by the lack of an inexpensive substrate capable of withstanding the high processing temperatures required to produce quality films. This project will address this limitation by targeting the development of a low-cost stainless steel flexible substrate coated with silicone-based resin dielectric and module processes applicable across a variety of roll-to-roll CIGS manufacturing techniques. The project will target devices based on this substrate with efficiencies greater than 12%. The DOE will provide up to $1,478,331 for this approximately $1.85 million project.
University of Delaware with SunPower: High Efficiency Back Contact Silicon Heterojunction Solar Cells. This project will deposit amorphous silicon (a-Si) films on crystalline cells to enhance the electrical properties and enable low-temperature processing. Metal contacts will be moved to the back of the cell to increase the amount of light entering the cell and increase conversion efficiencies beyond 26%. The DOE will provide up to $1,494,736 for this approximately $1.9 million project.
University of Toledo with Calyxo USA, Inc.: Improved Atmospheric Vapor Pressure Deposition to Produce Thin CdTe Absorber Layers. Record cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin film devices utilize an 8-µm-thick CdTe layer, but duplication of this structure in commercial manufacturing increases material costs and deposition time. This project will reduce the CdTe layer thickness to approximately 1 µm while targeting a 10% module efficiency. Improvements to contacts, uniformity and monolithic integration will also be achieved. The DOE will provide up to $1,164,174 for this approximately $1.7 million project.
University of Toledo with Xunlight: High-Rate Fabrication of a-Si-Based Thin-Film Solar Cells Using Large-area VHF PECVD. Reducing processing costs of amorphous silicon modules has proven difficult because increasing process throughput of conventional deposition processes results in lower device efficiency. This project aims to retain high efficiencies while fabricating high-efficiency amorphous silicon and nanocrystalline silicon solar cells at high rates. The project will target 10% conversion efficiency for amorphous silicon/nanocrystalline silicon (a-Si/nc-Si) solar cells. The DOE will provide up to $1,442,266 for this approximately $1.9 million project.
Visit www.energy.gov for more information.