NREL scores with DOE PV projects

Golden’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is back in the news as a participant in several of the 13 solar energy projects selected Thursday by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for some of the first funds actually made available as part of President Bush’s Solar America Initiative.

NREL is a partner in six of the project teams, which collectively will negotiate for up to$168 million in FY 2007-09 funding, subject to appropriation from Congress.

Each team selected for negotiation formed a Technology Pathway Partnership — made up of companies, laboratories, universities, and non-profit organizations — aimed at accelerating the commercialization of U.S.-produced solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.

A wide range of projects were selected, including development of several thin-film and organic PV technologies, solar modules with built-in power inverters, roofing products with integrated PV elements, systems for concentrating PV power, thinner solar cells and automated manufacturing systems for PV cells.

The DOE expects the 13 projects to pave the way for a ten-fold increase in the annual U.S. manufacturing capacity of photovoltaic systems, from 240 megawatts (MW) in 2005 to as much as 2,850 MW by 2010. The agency says the program’s success should allow the U.S. industry reduce the cost of solar-electricity production from current levels of 18-23 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to 5-10 cents per kWh by 2015, making it competitive with other forms of energy production.

PV panels at Lake Powell

PV panels at Lake Powell, Utah                        (NREL photo)

Earlier this week NREL signed an $870,000 licensing deal to transfer PV technology to Longmont-based PrimeStar Solar, Inc. (see story below).

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