Achieving the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO)’s priorities across the solar energy technology landscape requires sustained, multifaceted innovation. With this FOA, the office intends to fund high-impact, early-stage research in the following areas:
Topic Area 1: Photovoltaics Research and Development
This topic will support several applied research collaborations to tackle key challenges in commercially available technologies and to invest in new materials that can lower the cost of PV-generated electricity. It will look at system-level opportunities that can increase the amount of energy produced by a PV array over its lifetime and lower the costs of manufacturing and deploying solar systems. In addition, it will fund several high-risk, early-stage projects to seed new ideas for continued research. By taking a collaborative approach, advances from these projects will ensure that the U.S. solar industry continues to be on the cutting edge of PV technology development.
Topic Area 2: Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power Research and Development
This topic will support the development of new thermal storage technologies that will make solar energy available on demand. It will also support the development of advanced manufacturing and autonomous operational technologies to reduce the cost of CSP. CSP’s inherent ability to incorporate storage makes this renewable technology more useful to grid operators. The improvements targeted by this research aim to increase the performance of CSP plants, encourage the commercialization of new CSP technologies, and support the development of an agile, U.S.-based CSP manufacturing sector.
Topic Area 3: Balance of Systems Soft Costs Reduction
This topic will support several collaborative partnerships with industry to reduce regulatory and financing burdens that increase costs for solar developers and consumers. Research will be focused on enabling the country’s new and developing solar markets to tackle financing and permitting issues for solar and solar-plus storage systems, and implementing best practices and lessons learned from SETO’s previous research. The work will also examine cybersecurity threats and potential responses to them with an eye toward developing strategic plans and other decision-making tools that can advance cybersecurity solutions in anticipation of potential technical, policy, and regulatory risks. These efforts aim to increase solar energy affordability for more Americans and expand the solar market across the country.
Topic Area 4: Innovations in Manufacturing: Hardware Incubator
This topic will support for-profit companies developing early-stage product ideas that have both a clear pathway to reducing solar electricity costs and the potential for rapid commercialization. These projects should be well positioned to attract follow-on investment in the transition to becoming self-supporting. In particular, research will focus on the development of innovative and impactful technologies that support a strong U.S. solar manufacturing sector.
Topic Area 5: Advanced Solar Systems Integration Technologies
This topic will support the development of technologies that will ease the integration of solar energy onto the nation’s electricity grid, especially in areas where solar could account for a high percentage of the electricity supply. Research will focus on how distributed generation can help provide additional value to system operators while increasing coordination and control of power electronics technologies. These technologies will improve the energy sector’s ability to respond to extreme events, like fires and cyberattacks, and rapidly restore service if interrupted.
Projects funded by SETO are expected to produce high-impact outcomes with a view toward commercialization and wide dissemination, including publication of the results in high-visibility, high-impact, peer-reviewed journals.