SETO Newsletter: New Solar Office Director; $128M for 75 Solar Projects; SolSmart Hits 300

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Solar Energy Technologies Office


Top News: Charlie Gay Bids Farewell; FY2019 Funding Program Selections; Feedback Requested

There’s been a change in leadership at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE’s) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO), and we’re not slowing down: We’ve announced the selections of 75 new solar projects, which span SETO’s portfolio; advanced the American-Made Solar Prize, now calling for Round 3 submissions; developed the latest request for information with the concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) team; and released solar topics for new funding for small businesses.

These stories and more in this edition of the SETO newsletter.

Dr. Solar Leaves the Office

Charlie Gay has been SETO’s director since August 2016, sharing 45 years’ worth of technical expertise and insight with staff and stakeholders alike. Now, after an illustrious career in the solar industry, Charlie has retired from his position at SETO. The solar office is grateful to Charlie for his contributions, generosity, and kindness and wishes him the very best.

Take Us to Your Leader

Dr. Becca Jones-Albertus, who has been SETO’s deputy director for the past three years, was named director of the solar office on November 24. She joined SETO in 2013 as the Photovoltaics (PV) Research and Development (R&D) program manager after five years leading R&D at a private-sector company, where she managed device design and characterization efforts as the team set two world records for solar cell efficiency. She earned her Ph.D. in materials science and engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, holds 13 U.S. PV patents, and has more than 40 publications.

FY2019’s Chosen Ones: $128 Million for New Project Selections

On November 6, DOE announced the selections of 75 projects from 22 states under the SETO FY2019 funding program. You can read descriptions of these innovative research projects on the following webpages for the five topic areas: photovoltaics (PV), concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP), innovations in manufacturing: hardware incubator, balance of systems soft costs reduction, and systems integration. These projects will work to lower the costs of solar electricity, improve grid security and resilience, increase U.S. manufacturing, and cut red tape.

SolSmart Milestone: Going Solar Is Easier for 300 Communities

In October, Anchorage, Alaska, was named the 300th community to receive a SolSmart designation, meaning the city is open for solar business after taking steps to cut the soft costs and red tape associated with going solar. SolSmart is a national recognition and technical assistance program that got its start at SETO as a 2016 project led by the International City/County Management Association and the Solar Foundation. Now there are more than 325 cities, counties, and regional organizations in 40 states and the District of Columbia with a bronze, silver, or gold SolSmart designation.

Your CSP Feedback Is Supercritical!

On November 12, SETO issued a request for information (RFI) to obtain insight on how we might speed up the commercialization of advanced supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) power cycles and thermal energy storage in CSP plants. We want feedback about several topics to inform our strategic planning efforts, so please submit your responses by December 18, 2019, 5:00 p.m. ET.

Solar Prize Deadline Approaching

Got an idea for a groundbreaking solar technology innovation? Submit it by December 10, 2019, to compete in Round 3 of the American-Made Solar Prize, the $3 million competition to revitalize U.S. solar manufacturing. You could advance your concept to a prototype with help from the American-Made Network, which consists of partners across the country who provide technical assistance and advice, and then demonstrate it at a national event. There will be a webinar on December 4 to review the submission process and answer questions.

Heads Up: New Funding Coming for Small Businesses

On November 12, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, run by the Office of Science, released the research topics for its FY2020 funding opportunity. The SBIR/STTR program encourages domestic small businesses to engage in high-risk, innovative research and technology development with the potential for future commercialization. This new funding opportunity is expected to be announced in December. Two of these topics are focused on solar:

  • Topic 11a: Technology Transfer Opportunity: Microwave Photoconductance Spectrometer for Roll-to-Roll Deposited Semiconductor Materials
    This is a chance to partner with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to make a commercially viable prototype of its measurement tool used to study photovoltaic materials.
  • Topic 11b: Solar Seed Fund: Affordability, Reliability, and Performance of Solar Technologies
    SETO is looking for new technology solutions in the areas of advanced solar systems integration, concentrating solar-thermal power, or photovoltaics (PV) that will lower costs and facilitate the secure integration of solar onto the grid. 

Read more about these topics, and register for the webinar on December 18, 2019, to hear the details from SETO staff!

DOE sCO2 Workshop Wrap-Up

SETO’s CSP team spent Halloween at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, cohosting a workshop on integrating sCO2 power cycles with thermal energy storage. Stakeholders and invited speakers discussed sCO2 cycle integration with heat sources, designing sCO2 cycles for air cooling so that plants don’t need a lot of water to cool heat that doesn’t get converted to electricity, interactions between thermal energy storage and the sCO2 cycle, and designing primary heat exchangers that transfer heat from molten salt to sCO2—plus, how DOE can best support the demonstration of commercially relevant sCO2 cycles integrated with flexible storage to quickly dispatch electricity on demand. Check out their presentations.

SETO Awardee Receives Innovation Honor

With a history of SETO awards dating from 2013, Alex Q. Huang at the University of Texas at Austin has received the 2019 IEEE Industry Applications Society Gerald Kliman Innovator Award. His current project with SETO falls under the Advanced Power Electronics Design for Solar Applications funding program and involves developing a utility-scale PV inverter that will eliminate the need for a transformer. Huang has been a pioneer in promoting silicon and silicon carbide devices in power electronics. Congratulations!

Grid Modernization Lab Call

On November 6, DOE announced that approximately $80 million in funding will be awarded to projects in the 2019 Grid Modernization Lab Call. The projects will focus on resilience modeling, energy storage and system flexibility, advanced sensors and data analytics, institutional support and analysis, cyber-physical security, and generation. This Lab Call is a solicitation under the Grid Modernization Initiative, a crosscutting effort that encourages public and private partnerships to develop technologies that manage the future electric grid.

Shedding Light: Getting Peak Capacity Out of Storage

Energy storage is crucial to making the most out of our energy sources, and lithium-ion batteries are one way to do it. A report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “The Potential for Battery Energy Storage to Provide Peaking Capacity in the United States,” examines the potential for utility-scale energy storage to provide peak capacity in the national grid. The researchers looked at how much peak capacity could be served by storage with different durations, and how this could change using solar and wind.


Materials Research Society Fall Meeting
December 1-6 | Boston, MA
Technology Manager Susan Huang will present at the “Silicon for Photovoltaics” symposium at this conference and discuss SETO-funded silicon research projects relevant to current and future PV deployment. 

American-Made Solar Prize Round 3 Submission Webinar
December 4 | 2:00–3:00 p.m. ET
In this webinar, the Solar Prize team will review the submission process, answer questions, and connect interested participants with Power Connectors who can provide guidance and feedback on submissions.

Durable Module Materials (DuraMAT) Webinar
December 9 | 3:00–4:00 p.m. ET
The DuraMAT Consortium presents “Demonstrating New Concepts for Reliable Low-Cost Module Encapsulation and Moisture Barrier Technologies” as part of its mission to discover, develop, de-risk, and enable the commercialization of new materials and designs for PV modules.

American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting
December 9-13 | San Francisco, CA
At this conference, Technology Manager Tassos Golnas will discuss the progress of SETO’s Forecasting 2 funding program in the session “Energy Meteorology 1 – Solar Irradiance Resourcing and Forecasting.”

SBIR/STTR FY20 Phase I Solar Topic Webinar
December 18 | 2:00–3:00 p.m. ET
Join SETO staff for this webinar to find out more about the solar topics in this upcoming funding opportunity for small businesses.

SETO in the News

Solar Photo of the Week

A 1.1-acre, 250-kilowatt PV array and battery-storage system on Kauai, Hawaii.

A 1.1-acre, 250-kilowatt PV array and battery-storage system on Kauai, Hawaii. Photo by Dennis Schroeder. Click the photo to download it..

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