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DOE Releases US $200M for Solar & Water Power Technologies

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced last week that the Department will invest more than US $200 million over five years to expand and accelerate the development, commercialization, and use of solar and water power technologies throughout the United States.

The investments include a photovoltaic manufacturing initiative that will provide up to $125 million over five years under which DOE will invest in manufacturing-focused research projects that will have near and mid-term impact on the U.S. solar industry and will catalyze greater cooperation within the industry. Funding will be available for applicants for university-focused development and industry-focused development. Concept papers are due June 3, 2010 with full applications due in early August.

The second set of investments will be made in photovoltaic supply chain development, valued at up to $40 million over three years. This funding is focused on identifying and accelerating unique products or processes for the photovoltaic manufacturing supply chain that will have a major impact on the industry. The projects will help meet the Department's goal of achieving cost-competitive solar PV systems compared with conventional forms of electricity, and accelerating and facilitating the widespread implementation of solar technology.

The Department is seeking projects focused on component and manufacturing technologies that show a strong potential to impact a substantial segment of the photovoltaic industry within two to five years. Examples include engineering lower cost coating materials, electrical components to improve performance, processes that reduce manufacturing waste, or equipment that dramatically improves manufacturing or installation speed.  The Department plans to select both large and small companies that can quickly develop new photovoltaic supply chain solutions and anticipates that approximately $10-$15 million annually will be available to fund these PV supply chain projects. Applications are due July 2, 2010.

The Department will also create a national administrator of the solar instructor training network position in which it expects to invest up to $4.5 million over five years. This funding opportunity will select a National Administrator that will act as a central coordinating body for the Training Network. The Network was created in 2009, by the Department of Energy to establish high-quality, local and accessible training for personnel involved in the sales, design, installation, commissioning and inspection of solar photovoltaic and solar heating and cooling systems. Awards were made to nine regional resource and training providers.

The National Administrator will manage the collaboration of the Training Network members, disseminating their products and conducting other outreach efforts such as providing recommendations for the adoption of best practices. The selected organization will also serve as a national point of contact for the Training Network and will work with a broad set of stakeholders to define, prioritize and address issues related to solar training and workforce development. Applications are due June 15, 2010.

Finally, the Department will accelerate the technological advancement and commercial readiness of emerging water power technologies that can produce renewable, cost-competitive electricity by harnessing the energy of waves, currents, tides, and free-flowing rivers, or energy stored in ocean thermal gradients. DOE will use "technology readiness levels" a tool which has been effectively used by numerous companies and federal agencies to measure and compare the maturity of evolving technologies, to evaluate and select projects.

This funding opportunity seeks to leverage private-sector investment in MHK technologies by providing cost-shared funding to industry and industry-led partnerships in order to advance the technological and operational readiness of MHK systems and components. The goal is to effectively transition leading MHK system and component designs toward commercialization. Applications are due June 7, 2010.

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