SETO Newsletter: Workforce Funding Opportunity Announced; Webinar Helps You Access Community Solar

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Solar Energy Technologies Office


Top News: New Funding Program for Workforce Training; SETO Goes Virtual for Peer Review

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) recently announced a new $4.5 million funding opportunity to train first responders and other professionals who are newly interacting with solar energy. Read Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Assistant Secretary Daniel R Simmon’s blog post about his visit to a solar manufacturing facility. Ten teams were selected to advance to the final phase of the American-Made Solar Prize Round 2 competition, and SETO hosted its first-ever all-virtual peer review.

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

Fighting Fire with Knowledge: New Funding Available for Training Programs

On April 6, DOE announced a new $4.5 million funding program to develop training programs for professionals working with solar, vehicle, or building efficiency technologies. These projects will provide educational materials to emergency responders and building, fire, and safety department officials. This program is a collaborative effort by SETO, the Building Technologies Office, and the Vehicle Technologies Office. Read more about this program and submit your concept papers by May 5 at 5:00 p.m. ET.

Testing and Metal and Glass, Oh My: Solar Manufacturing Up Close

Since increasing solar manufacturing in the United States is a major DOE priority, EERE Assistant Secretary Daniel R Simmons got a glimpse of the production lines at First Solar’s new facility in Ohio, where thin-film photovoltaic (PV) modules are made. There, he learned what this company and others like it are doing to speed up manufacturing (hint: a local supply chain is a better supply chain) and more. Read what he had to say about his experience and the current efforts to boost domestic solar production.

Virtual Success: The SETO 2020 Peer Review

On April 6–8, SETO hosted its first all-virtual peer review. This event gathered key stakeholders to collect feedback on SETO’s portfolio of nearly 400 active projects, representing more than $750 million in federal funding. The feedback from this event will help SETO identify strategies to continue to meet our ambitious goals. You can download the slides from the plenary session to learn more about the state of the solar industry, SETO’s work and future goals, and the peer review process. A report of the peer review findings will be publicly available in the coming months.

National Community Solar Partnership

Solar for Everyone: National Community Solar Partnership Webinar

On April 28, at 2:00 p.m. ET, DOE will host a webinar to provide an overview of the National Community Solar Partnership’s (NCSP’s) goals. The NCSP, announced in September, is a coalition of stakeholders who are working to ensure access to affordable community solar for every U.S. household by 2025. The Partnership is designed to address barriers to affordable solar deployment by equipping its stakeholders with the tools, technical assistance, and information they need to encourage their communities to invest in solar. Through alternative business models like community solar, more people will have access to solar energy regardless of where they live or the suitability of their rooftops. To learn more and join the partnership, email  

Deadline Time: Submit Your Abstracts for SolarPACES 2020

From September 29 through October 2, Albuquerque, New Mexico, will be home to this year’s biggest concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) conference, Solar Power and Chemical Energy Systems (SolarPACES) 2020. Want to present a paper at the conference? Download the template to submit your abstract(s) by May 1, 2020. Attendees will have the opportunity to visit the Solana CSP plant and the National Solar Thermal Test Facility at Sandia National Laboratories.

SolarPACES 2020

Rounding Up: Solar Prize Round 2 Finalists and Round 3 Demo Day

On March 30, SETO Director Dr. Becca Jones-Albertus announced the finalists of the $3 million American-Made Solar Prize Round 2. From 20 teams, the expert judges selected 10 that will receive $100,000 in cash and $75,000 in support vouchers to advance their prototypes and compete in the final phase of the challenge. The winners will be determined in the coming months. As the Round 2 finalists move closer to the finish line, the Round 3 competitors are right behind them! The 10 Round 3 finalists will be announced at a demonstration day event. Stay tuned for details.

Solar Cell Wins Gold: New Efficiency World Records

Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have fabricated a thin-film six-junction solar cell with nearly 50% efficiency—specifically, a world-record 47.1% measured under concentrated illumination, which produces more light than the sun. A variation of this cell also set the efficiency record under unconcentrated light at 39.2%, for one-sun illumination. This cell is designed for use in concentrator photovoltaics, a utility-scale option that uses lenses or mirrors to maximize the sunlight that lands on solar cells and is best suited for sun-rich regions.

TESS Is More: A New Thermal Energy Storage System

The heat produced during electricity generation often goes to waste, but Argonne National Laboratory has a solution: with funding from SETO, the lab is developing a modular thermal energy storage system (TESS) that can quickly store and release that extra heat for commercial use, such as in concentrating solar power facilities, desalination plants, and combined heat and power systems. The novel technology enabling better storage involves a porous foam that conducts heat. TESS extracts more energy from the same amount of fuel, which increases efficiency and lowers costs.

Share Your Insight: Distributed Energy Resources in Buildings

DOE recently issued a request for information to gather feedback on integrating solar and other distributed energy resource technologies in buildings for greater energy efficiency and grid resilience. PV, electrochemical and thermal energy storage, combined heat and power, and microgrids are among the technologies that can provide value and resilience to utility customers as well as the electricity system. Feedback is likely to result in a future funding opportunity, so submit your responses to by May 12, 5:00 p.m. ET.

State of Solar: A Quarterly Report

Here are some highlights from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s quarterly solar industry report: U.S. solar investment totaled $25 billion in 2019, most of which funded solar projects. That’s a year-over-year increase of 12%. In the first nine months of 2019, the United States installed 7.1 gigawatts (GW) of PV—up 10% over the same period in 2018. About 32% of new U.S. electric generating capacity in 2019 came from solar (20% utility-scale PV and 12% distributed PV), and those installation levels are expected to hit 18 GW in 2020 and 20 GW in 2021.

Shedding Light: Solar Rising from the Ashes

When wildfires caused grid disturbances in Southern California in 2016 and 2017, the inverters connecting PV panels to the grid behaved in unexpected ways. Settings designed to ensure grid safety instead hindered the ability of the PV panels to respond to changing conditions and stay connected. This real-world data enabled research teams led by Sandia National Laboratories to create more accurate models of inverter behavior and give grid operators better guidance, ensuring greater resilience of these systems in the future. You can read their findings in two new reports: “Momentary Cessation: Improving Dynamic Performance and Modeling of Utility-Scale Inverter Based Resources During Grid Disturbances” and “Impact of Inverter Based Resource Negative Sequence Current Injection on Transmission System Protection.”


National Community Solar Partnership Webinar
April 28 | 2:00 p.m. ET
Join SETO staff for an overview of the Partnership that will work to ensure that all American households have access to affordable solar by 2025. Register here.

Solar Energy Industry Association COVID-19 Solar Industry Impact Webinar Series
Fridays through May 15 | 1:00 p.m. ET
This weekly webinar series will provide updates on how the pandemic is affecting the domestic solar industry and will feature a question and answer session with attendees.

Durable Module Materials (DuraMAT) Consortium webinar
May 11 | 3:00 p.m. ET
A National Renewable Energy Laboratory researcher will present “An Overview of Backsheet Materials for Photovoltaic Modules.”

SETO in the News

Solar Photo of the Week

PV panels installed at the Montessori School on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

PV panels installed at the Montessori School on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Photo by Don Buchanan, Virgin Islands Energy Office. Click the photo to download it.

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SETO is part of the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.