U.S. Department of Energy

Photovoltaic Research Facilities

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funds photovoltaic (PV) research and development (R&D) at its national laboratory facilities located throughout the country. To encourage further innovation, DOE provides access to the top researchers and specialized, state-of-the-art PV equipment available at the national laboratories through solar industry partnerships. Below are the facilities and capabilities that DOE supports.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) provides three key capabilities.

Process Development and Integration Laboratory

The Process Development and Integration Laboratory (PDIL) at NREL is a collaborative facility that works with a range of PV materials, allowing industry researchers to work closely with NREL scientists to foster transformative innovation in the domestic PV market. This unique 11,000-square-foot space has six platforms providing custom deposition and measurement equipment for multiple technologies.

Measurements and Characterization

NREL's Measurements and Characterization group provides characterization support, collaborative research, and the development of new measurement techniques for PV. Partners include industry, manufacturing, university, and government agencies. The measurements and characterization support is provided in four areas:

Performance and Reliability

At NREL, the PV reliability R&D tests PV components, modules, and systems. With indoor and outdoor test facilities, this testing focuses on three areas:

Brookhaven National Laboratory

The National Synchrotron Light Source is a scientific facility that has more than 2,500 scientists from around the world who come to perform experiments.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

The Advanced Light Source (ALS) tool, located at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is a third-generation synchrotron and national user facility.

The ALS produces light in the X-ray region of the electromagnetic spectrum that is one billion times brighter than the sun. Research topics and techniques include:

  • Probing the electronic structure of matter
  • Semiconductors
  • Magnetic materials
  • 3D-biological imaging
  • Protein crystallography
  • Ozone photochemistry
  • X-ray microscopy of biological samples
  • Chemical reaction dynamics
  • Atomic and molecular physics
  • Optics testing.

Nanoscale Science Research Centers

The DOE Office of Science supports five Nanoscale Science Research Centers (NSRCs) that serve as the premier user centers for nanoscale research—encompassing new science, new tools, and new computing capabilities.

Center for Functional Nanomaterials

The Center for Functional Nanomaterials at Brookhaven National Laboratory focuses on understanding the chemical and physical response of nanomaterials to fabricate materials such as sensors, activators, and energy-conversion devices. The emphasis is on atomic-level tailoring to achieve desired properties and functions. The facility uses existing facilities such as the National Synchrotron Light Source and the Laser Electron Accelerator facility.

Center for Integrated Nanotechnology

The Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT) focuses on nanophotonics and nanoelectronics, complex functional nanomaterials, nanomechanics, and nanoscale/bio/microscale interfaces. CINT is jointly administered by Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.

Center for Nanophase Materials Science

The Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences (CNMS) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is a research center and user facility that focuses on understanding, designing, and controlling the dynamics, spatial chemistry, and energetics underlying the functionality and properties of nanoscale materials, systems, and architectures.

Center for Nanoscale Materials

The Center for Nanoscale Materials at Argonne National Laboratory supports basic research and the development of advanced instrumentation that will help to generate new scientific insights, create innovative materials with unique functionality, and contribute to energy-related R&D programs.

Molecular Foundry

The Molecular Foundry at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) makes use of existing LBNL facilities such as the Advanced Light Source, the National Center for Electron Microscopy, and the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center. The goal is to provide researchers with the tools to enhance the development and understanding of the synthesis, characterization, and theory of nanoscale materials.

Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies (QESST)

QESST is jointly funded by DOE, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Engineering Research Center (ERC) led by Arizona State University. QESST seeks to develop cost-competitive photovoltaics with sustained market growth by bringing together university and industry partners. To achieve this goal, QESST combines fundamental materials research in silicon, thin-film, and tandem solar cells with systems-level issues of manufacturability and integration. The center comprises four partner universities, three affiliated universities, three international universities, and 48 industry partners—working together to advance photovoltaic science, technology, and education.

Sandia National Laboratories

Sandia collaborates with the U.S. photovoltaic industry, government agencies, national laboratories, and international organizations to reduce costs, improve reliability, increase performance, remove barriers, and grow markets for PV. Below are a few of the key capabilities.

Photovoltaic System Evaluation Laboratory

The capabilities available through the Photovoltaic Systems Evaluation Laboratory (PSEL) include:

  • PV systems evaluations and optimization
  • Field testing of arrays and systems in collaboration with system integrators
  • Performance testing for modules, arrays, power inverters, charge controllers, and batteries
  • Diagnosis of module reliability issues with manufacturing consultation
  • Performance characterization of PV cells and photosensors
  • Calibration of PV reference cells, reference modules, and solar instruments.

Distributed Energy Technologies Laboratory

The Distributed Energy Technologies Laboratory (DETL) is an extension of the power electronics testing capabilities at Sandia's Photovoltaic Systems Evaluation Laboratory. DETL is a microgrid with interconnections to the utility grid and distributed energy resources, including PV inverters, microturbines, fuel cells, reciprocating engine-generators, and electrical energy storage systems.

Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Applications

The Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Applications (MESA) integrates the scientific disciplines necessary to produce functional, robust, integrated microsystems.