DOE to Fund $12 Million in Thin-Film PV Work

The U.S. Department of Energy is preparing to fund $12 million in research for the development of thin-film solar photovoltaic technology.

GOLDEN, Colorado – The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has issued a Letter of Interest for work in the ‘Thin-Film Photovoltaics Partnerships Program’ (TFPPP) in a competition that solicits for the University Center of Excellence program in thin films. NREL wants to sustain support of thin-film research and to continue National R&D Team activities made up of academia, thin-film photovoltaic industry, NREL, and the National Center for Photovoltaics (NCPV) in the different thin-film PV technologies. The purpose of the TFPPP is to accelerate the progress of thin film solar cells and module development as well as to address mid-and long-term research and development issues. The objective of TFPPP is to demonstrate commercial, low-cost, reproducible, high yield modules with a conversion efficiency of 15 percent, and the purpose of this program is to progress toward this objective by achieving aggressive interim goals in thin film module efficiencies; cell and module processing; cell and module reliability; and in the technology base that supports these key areas. Existing NREL-sponsored National R&D Teams will be restructured around critical research issues after subcontract awards, and all bidders must participate in National R&D Team activities and be prepared to share proprietary information. The DOE/NREL/NCPV strategy in undertaking this initiative is to maintain the good coupling between laboratory results from fundamental materials and process research to manufacturing R&D, pilot-line operation, and commercialization of advanced thin-film PV products in the marketplace, through cooperation with academia, U.S. thin film PV companies, and DOE laboratories. The initiative supports other DOE/NCPV activities by accelerating the marketplace availability of potentially low- cost PV technologies. The solicitation is aimed at three types of participants: Technology Partners, Research and Development Partners, and a University Center of Excellence. Thin films are defined as those based on the following light-absorbing semiconductor materials (and related alloys): amorphous silicon (a-Si), cadmium telluride (CdTe), copper indium diselenide (CIS), and film-silicon (film-Si) on low- cost substrates where the silicon thickness is less than 50 microns. No multijunction device structures will be considered in this project. Film-silicon under 50 microns has not yet demonstrated power modules, and research on low-cost substrate can be proposed only under the R&D Partners category since it is still in the R&D stage. The objectives of this program are to support the successful introduction of U.S. thin-film PV products by addressing key near-term technical R&D issues at U.S. business concerns committed to thin-film PV technology; to support advanced (mid- and longer-term) thin-film R&D needed by industry for future product competitiveness, including improving module performance, cost per watt produced, and reliability of thin-film PV technologies; to support thin-film solar cell research through a University Center of Excellence for Photovoltaic Research and Education. “In other words, the goal is to improve the likelihood of success of this generation of potentially low-cost thin film PV technologies, while keeping the “technology pipeline” full for future improvements,” explains the RFP. Environment, safety, health and recycling issues are important priority items for this research, and will be addressed for thin film PV technology. It is expected that program funding will be $12 million per year from NREL/NCPV

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