U.S. Photovoltaic Program Called Essential

The solar PV program administered by the U.S. Department of Energy has received high marks from an independent panel of experts.

GOLDEN, Colorado, US, 2001-12-14 [SolarAccess.com] The 2001 Peer Review of DOE’s Photovoltaic Program found that the quality of science, technology and engineering is outstanding in terms of conducting world class R&D. The panel says the R&D defines the state of the art in university research; measurement, characterization, electronic devices and materials; thin film partnerships; and PV manufacturing technology. The review was conducted by a panel of energy officials selected on the basis of their broad understanding of PV technologies and markets, and their independence from direct participation in any of the DOE program. The positive evaluation comes at a time when, according to the U.S. industry, it faces a critical juncture in PV development with companies facing decisions on capital-intensive investments in new manufacturing processes that have never been tried at such scale. Industry officials say DOE cost sharing and expertise are critical factors in reducing the real and perceived risk of investments in PV market development. Industry backers look to research to prove the viability of the technologies, and to the expertise of DOE researchers to provide an unbiased opinion on the viability of new manufacturing processes and PV materials. If DOE were to pull away from its role in PV R&D or compromise the quality of its scientific effort, much of the past investment would be lost because it would not go into practice in manufacturing, products and applications, they say. The quality of science, technology and engineering is excellent in the area of system and industry support, according to the panel. The program is outstanding across all activities in supporting work that is fundamental to the success of the program and in allocating funds as effectively as possible within current budget circumstances, making it very relevant to national needs. The PV program received outstanding ratings in all areas for effective program management, indicating that the panel views the program as operating as effectively as possible and maximizing its return on investment within funding constraints. The PV program is doing an extremely effective job of setting priorities, balancing allocation of available resources, recognizing and addressing critical problems and barriers to progress and commercialization, and in supporting the quality of work required to achieve its goals, says the panel. The rankings assigned to the three evaluation criteria in each of the five areas evaluated were not made lightly. The panel pointed out that the consistently high rankings assigned in the evaluation are very unusual but also quite deliberate, based on the peer group’s collective familiarity with many other research efforts both public and private. The National Energy Policy Plan proposed by the U.S. administration emphasizes that R&D programs should be performance-based and modeled as public-private partnerships. The review panel says the PV program, as a whole, is doing an outstanding job in meeting these objectives. Over the past two decades, the PV Program, in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and the industrial and academic communities, has worked to achieve the program’s mission of making “PV a significant and vital part of the domestic economy in the years ahead, both as an industry and as an energy resource.” The review panel says the PV program has achieved its intended goal of developing a PV industry in the United States that is recognized as a leader around the world.
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