DoE aims to increase the lifespan of solar plants from 30 to 50 years

Shree Pandey, a master electrician with Sundial Energy, and another worker wire the solar modules atop the training center. Credit: Nate Broadbridge / Courtesy

The US Department of Energy (DoE) has announced funding for research and development of technologies that can help increase the lifespan of solar energy power plants.

A total of $40 million in funding announced by the DoE will also be directed to enhance energy storage technologies, reduce the costs of solar energy and enable concentrated solar energy plants to operate under very high-temperature conditions.

The announcement follows the US witnessing an increase in the costs of solar across every solar energy market segment for the first time in seven years. The increase is due to COVID-19 disruptions on the supply chain and the US-China trade war, according to Wood Mackenzie and the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Read more: How states can collaborate on offshore wind to meet ambitious goals in the U.S.

With the funding, the DoE aims to achieve its goal of increasing the lifespan of solar plants from the current average of 30 years to 50 years.

Some 40 projects will benefit from the funding with three of them focusing entirely on helping to optimize the maintenance of solar plants.

The DoE is directing $4.5 million in total towards the three projects.

The aim is to come up with new ways to reduce replacement and maintenance costs of solar systems and enable modular components that could be easily replaced due to normal wear and tear or after extreme weather events and better monitoring of systems.

With the average temperatures in the US rising, developing solar systems that are able to withstand high temperatures will in turn help increase the life of solar systems, according to the DoE. A total of $25 million will be awarded to some 13 projects that will focus on enhancing the reliability of concentrated solar systems in high-temperature conditions.

Up to $4 million will be awarded to three projects that will work on improving long-duration thermal energy storage systems, a vital technology to optimize the performance of solar energy plants.

Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm, said: “We are laser-focused on deploying more solar power and developing more cost-effective technologies to decarbonize our electricity system.

“Research to develop stronger and longer-lasting solar panels is critical to addressing the climate crisis. The 40 projects announced today – led by universities and private industry across the country – is an investment in the next generation of innovations that will strengthen the nation’s solar capacity and enhance our grid resilience.”

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