Washington, DC [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] The U.S. Department of Energy has received 73 letters of intent from U.S. industry partnerships intending to apply for three-year projects that will develop, test, and demonstrate new photovoltaic (PV) components, systems, and manufacturing approaches.Part of President Bush’s Advanced Energy Initiative, this Solar America Initiative (SAI) funding opportunity is designed to make the cost of solar systems competitive with conventional electricity sources in national markets by 2015. Covering a broad share of the U.S. industry, the DOE states the quantity of letters demonstrates the recent evolution and growth of the U.S. PV sector, reflecting the highest level of interest in DOE solar R&D funding opportunities in the last two decades. Final applications, which must be received on or before October 2, 2006, are subject to appropriated funds, and are to focus on grid-tied, terrestrial PV technologies that can achieve the Levelized Cost of Energy and installed domestic capacity goals as stated in the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). The letters of intent are almost evenly distributed between Systems and Subsystems Partnerships. The maximum DOE funding available for each award is $20 million for Systems Class and $8 million for Subsystems Class. The required recipient cost share for both Topic Areas is 50% of the total project cost, not 50% of the requested DOE funding. Awards under this funding opportunity have the potential to lead to new funding opportunities for research and development on new solar component technologies, manufacturing processes for components, and integrated PV system designs that have the best chance at making PV-generated electricity cost-competitive by the 2015 goal. DOE also is developing a “technology acceptance” strategy to address marketplace challenges such as net metering, interconnection standards and system financing.