Scaling Up Nascent Photovoltaics AT Home
Three awardees are helping the nation reclaim its competitive edge in solar manufacturing through SUNPATH, which stands for Scaling Up Nascent PV AT Home. This program strengthens the domestic manufacturing industry by supporting the initial ramp up to high-volume production.
The targeted SUNPATH funding enables innovative, high-tech companies to accelerate cost reductions and commercialization of solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies. At capacity, SUNPATH is expected to support approximately 600 direct American manufacturing jobs and thousands more throughout the solar industry.
DOE is providing $37 million over two years to fund the following projects. These awards were announced on August 2, 2011.
1366 Technologies — A $7 million federal award complements $21 million of private investment to build the company's first commercial-scale line with a manufacturing capacity of 40 MW per year. The company's innovative, cost-reducing molten silicon wafer process addresses the most expensive part of a silicon PV panel and could be a drop-in solution for the products that make up over 80% of the PV market. The SUNPATH grant will allow 1366 Technologies to transfer their existing demonstration-scale process into a capacity sufficient for scale-up learning and statistical process development. The new facility will be built in Lexington, Massachusetts.
Soitec Solar Inc. — The $25 million award will complement more than $115 million of private investment to accelerate construction of the company's first large-scale concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) module plant in San Diego, California. Soitec will be developing a new, larger module to reduce installation costs while implementing improved system optics to further increase the efficiency levels of the solar panels. The modules from the plant will supply more than 300 megawatts (MW) of electricity to California consumers through agreements with San Diego Gas and Electric as well as other markets.
Solar Junction — Coupled with $15 million of private investment, a $5 million SUNPATH award will enable Solar Junction to grow from 5 MW to 40 MW per year in manufacturing capacity for its world-record-setting, 43.5% efficient, multi-junction cells for CPV technology. The cells will be manufactured at facilities in San Jose, California, and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. CPV panels work by concentrating sunlight onto small PV cells, such as the ones that Solar Junction manufactures. Solar Junction technology was at the heart of a record-setting CPV panel that achieved an overall efficiency of more than 30%. In comparison, typical flat-plate panels have efficiencies of between 8% and 20%. This project will also enable Solar Junction to develop technology beyond the current triple-junction cell and reach even higher cell efficiencies.
The Energy Department will also support testing and validation for these technologies through an ongoing partnership with the Department of Defense (DOD). As part of the testing and validation process, each of these companies will provide hardware that can be tested on DOD bases. This validation process of innovative new PV technologies will further lower risks for commercial-scale deployment. This testing process builds on a broader DOD effort to support alternative energy and strengthen energy security.