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DOE To Invest US $12M in Early Stage Solar Technologies

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu last week announced that the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will invest US $12 million in total funding ($10 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) to support the development of early stage solar energy technologies.

The Photovoltaic (PV) Incubator Program partners NREL with companies that have developed new solar cell technologies to help move the technologies to commercial scale manufacturing. Over the long-term, these companies could support new domestic high-tech manufacturing jobs.

These partnerships leverage the technical expertise of NREL. The Laboratory will provide guidance and technical assistance to help the companies overcome common challenges for small scale or pilot manufacturing.

Companies awarded under the incubator program will work closely with NREL to move prototype and pre-commercial PV technologies into pilot and full-scale manufacturing. The anticipated subcontracts, up to $3 million each, will be awarded as 18-month phased subcontracts with payment made on completion of project milestones. The partnership projects are listed below.

Alta Devices Inc. will focus efforts on developing an innovative high-efficiency (more than 20 percent), low-cost compound-semiconductor photovoltaic module, with market entry expected in 2011.

Solar Junction Corp. will develop a manufacturing process to produce a very high efficiency multijunction cell. These high performing cells will be used by concentrating PV (CPV) manufacturers to produce lower cost CPV systems.

TetraSun will focus efforts on a back surface passivation for high efficiency crystalline silicon solar cells. This effort will result in a high efficiency low-cost C-Si solar cell.

Semprius Inc. will focus efforts toward a massively parallel, microcell-based CPV receiver. This approach combines the benefits of unique-to-solar manufacturing techniques with the performance and operational benefits of microcell concentrating photovoltaics.

“Semprius will use the subcontract to develop and then demonstrate our solar technology at the pilot plant scale. This is a critical next step on our path to full-scale manufacturing,” said Joe Carr, Semprius' president and CEO. “We are honored to be selected from among the many submissions.”

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