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U.S. DoE to invest $71M in solar technology development...

22 May 2024

...and EPFL develops new method based on machine-learning to find 14 new PV materials.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced a $71 million investment, including $16 million from the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, to grow the network of domestic manufacturers across the U.S. solar energy supply chain.

The projects will address gaps in the domestic solar manufacturing capacity for supply chain including equipment, silicon ingots and wafers, and both silicon and thin-film solar cell manufacturing. The projects will also open new markets for solar technologies.

These efforts complement and strengthen the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal to rapidly deploy clean energy to help achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. “The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to building an American-made solar supply chain that boosts innovation, drives down costs for families, and delivers jobs,” commented U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.

Solar innovation

DOE selected three projects for the Silicon Solar Manufacturing and Dual-Use Photovoltaics Incubator funding program to support the development of technologies to bring silicon wafer and cell manufacturing onshore. Seven additional projects will advance dual-use PV technologies to harness their potential to electrify buildings, decarbonize the transportation sector, and reduce land-use conflicts.

The projects are:

  • Re:Build Manufacturing (Nashua, NH): $1.9 million
  • Silfab Solar Cells (Fort Mill, SC): $5 million
  • Ubiquity Solar (Hazelwood, MO): $11.2 million
  • Appalachian Renewable Power (Stewart, OH): $1.6 million
  • GAF Energy (San Jose, CA): $1.6 million
  • Noria Energy Holdings (Sausalito, CA): $1.6 million
  • RCAM Technologies (Boulder, CO): $600,000
  • The R&D Lab (Petaluma, CA): $1 million
  • Silfab Solar WA (Bellingham, WA): $400,000
  • Wabash (Lafayette, IN): $1.6 million

The DoE statement of May 16th adds, “Thin-film PV technologies, such as cadmium telluride (CdTe), and perovskites have potential advantages over the current dominant silicon technology, such as less energy-intensive manufacturing, lower manufacturing costs, simpler supply chains, and greater lifetime energy yield.

“The DOE’s Solar Photovoltaics Supply Chain Review identified CdTe as an opportunity to expand domestic production of solar panels. Four other projects will prove out innovative tandem PV devices that pair established PV technologies like silicon and copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS) with perovskites.”

EPFL research identifies 14 new materials for solar cells

A research project at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, has developed a new method based on machine-learning to search large databases, leading to the discovery of 14 new materials for solar cells.

EPFL this week stated, “As we integrate solar energy into our daily lives, it has become important to find materials that efficiently convert sunlight into electricity. While silicon has dominated solar technology so far, there is also a steady turn towards materials known as perovskites due to their lower costs and simpler manufacturing processes.”

The challenge has been to find perovskites with the optimal “band gap” – a specific energy range that determines how efficiently a material can absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity without losing it as heat.

A research project led by Haiyuan Wang and Alfredo Pasquarello, with collaborators in Shanghai and in Louvain-La-Neuve, has now developed a method that combines advanced computational techniques with machine-learning to search for optimal perovskite materials for photovoltaic applications. They say that this approach could lead to more efficient and cheaper solar panels, transforming solar industry standards.

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