Nov 20, 2007
US splashes out on solar energy
The US Department of Energy plans to invest $21.7 m in developing new photovoltaic technology. The move forms part of the Solar America Initiative, which aims to make solar energy cost competitive with conventional electricity sources by 2015.
The funding will go to 25 projects at 15 universities and 6 companies – each award averages $900,000 over three years.
According to the Department of Energy, the resulting device and manufacturing-process research is expected to produce prototype cells and/or processes by 2015, with the potential for full commercialization following shortly afterwards.
The university recipients are: Arizona State University, for work on new materials for tandem thinfilm solar cells and on finding cheaper materials; California Institute of Technology, which will aim to enhance solar absorption using plasmons; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to enable conventional solar cells to use more of the sun’s energy by adding a new layer; Pennsylvania State University, which will seek better electrodes and electrolytes for dye-based sensitized solar cells; Rochester Institute of Technology, for work on solar-concentrator applications using high-efficiency nanostructures; Stanford University, for developing nanowire-based electrodes for solution-processed photovoltaics; University of California, Davis, for organic photovoltaics containing multiple-layer polymer films; University of California, San Diego, which will work on cells combining plasmonics and semiconductor nanostructures; University of Colorado for cheap and efficient solar cells using dye molecules; University of Delaware, for laser processing to control defects in polycrystalline tandem solar cells; University of Florida, which will develop tandem photovoltaics from inorganic nanorods in a polymer matrix; University of Illinois, for cheap concentrator photovoltaics from automated printing and the interconnection of microcells with built-in optics; University of Michigan, to develop tandem crystalline organic photovoltaic cells; University of South Florida for new process and product designs for CdTe cells and modules; and the University of Washington, which will focus on polymer-based photovoltaics with organic/inorganic nanostructures.
On the company side, the funding recipients are: Mayaterials, which aims to derive solar-grade silicon from agricultural by-products; Solasta, a business seeking to boost efficiency by using nanostructures to separate the path travelled by light from that travelled by electrons; Solexant, which will develop cheap inorganic cells with high efficiency; Soltaix, for thin-film crystalline solar cells for grid-connected electricity; Voxtel, to develop composite nanocrystal photovoltaic devices; and Wakonda Technologies, which aims to apply cheap conventional thinfilm manufacturing techniques to the production of large-area, high-efficiency, multi-junction photovoltaics.