SETO Newsletter: Solar Prize Round 4 Launched; New Funding for Small Solar Businesses

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Solar Energy Technologies Office


Top News: New Round of Solar Prize; More Funding for 11 Small Solar Companies  

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) will give 11 small solar companies over $12 million to advance their innovations; the American-Made Solar Prize Round 4 launched after the 10 Round 3 finalists were announced; and SETO presents energy storage basics and a blog post about residential solar and grid resilience.

Read these stories and more in this edition of the SETO newsletter.

Millions in Additional Funding for Small Solar Business Projects

Eleven solar energy projects that received initial funding as part of DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) programs are receiving additional funding to continue their valuable research. On July 14, DOE announced that the 11 projects will receive a combined $12.3 million as part of SBIR’s second phase to aid in commercializing their innovations. The projects span SETO’s portfolio from photovoltaics (PV) to concentrating solar-thermal power technologies. Learn more about these selections and see a full list of SETO’s SBIR and STTR projects over the years.


American-Made Solar Prize Announcements

Big things are happening with the $3 million American-Made Solar Prize competition. First, on July 10, SETO Director Dr. Becca Jones-Albertus announced the 10 finalists for Solar Prize Round 3. These teams, representing eight states, will compete for a chance to win $500,000 in cash and up to $75,000 in vouchers in December:

  • Enertronics (Blacksburg, VA)
  • infiniRel (Santa Cruz, CA)
  • Maxout Renewables (Livermore, CA)
  • Pursuit Solar (Denver, NC)
  • Renu Robotics (San Antonio, TX)
  • Shine Technologies (Portland, OR)
  • TrackerSled (Chicago, IL)
  • Uplift Solar (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Verify Energy (Berkeley, CA)
  • Wattch (Atlanta, GA)

Next, we’re approaching the Round 2 finish line. On August 28, 2020, we will find out which competitors have won the grand prize of $500,000 in cash after presenting their prototypes to an expert panel. Last but not least, Dr. Jones-Albertus announced the launch of the Prize’s fourth round. So if you’re a U.S.-based student, entrepreneur, or other industry professional with a great solar technology idea, you have a chance to compete for cash prizes and receive technical support. Submit your innovations for Round 4 by October 8, 2020!

Solar Prize

Back to Basics: Solar Energy and Storage

Sunlight powering your home at night might not sound possible, but the solar industry’s most reliable duo—solar energy and storage—makes it happen. SETO’s new Solar Integration: Solar Energy and Storage Basics page shows how energy storage enhances the performance of solar energy systems, making them more resilient and efficient. The webpage details the many forms of energy storage and the advantages of combining solar and storage. Read all about it.

Energy Storage

The AES Lawai Solar Project in Kauai, Hawaii has a 100 megawatt-hour battery energy storage system paired with a solar photovoltaic system. Photo courtesy of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

How Solar Strengthens Grid Resilience

If there’s a power outage in your neighborhood and you have solar panels on your roof, will your electricity stay on? The answer to that question and more is in our latest blog post, The Road to Resilience with Rooftop Solar. Through microgrids, real-time controls, and other cutting-edge technologies, SETO and the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy are working to ensure the grid is resilient, reliable, and secure. Learn more.

The Results Are In: SETO’s 2020 Peer Review Report

The results of SETO’s first all-virtual peer review, held April 6–8, are now available to the public. The report identifies new ways SETO can implement strategies to meet and exceed its core objectives. The findings are a result of high-level feedback from key stakeholders across SETO’s extensive portfolio. Read the report.

First Global Assessment of Solar Module Recycling Efforts

For the first time ever, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has assessed worldwide efforts to recycle solar photovoltaic (PV) modules, particularly pure crystalline silicon, to identify the best ways to manage their disposal after they stop working. The researchers called for research and development in several areas, including silicon purification processes, methods to avoid waste from the start, and lowering recycling costs. Check out their findings.

What’s the 411? DOE Issues Request for Information for Securing the U.S. Bulk Power System

DOE recently issued a request for information to understand the energy industry’s practices to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities in the supply chain for bulk-power-system components. DOE is seeking input from the public on reactive power equipment (reactors and capacitors), transformers, circuit breakers, and other hardware and electronics associated with equipment monitoring, intelligent control, and relay protection. Submit your feedback by August 7.

Workshop: Can Quantum Computing Play a Role in Renewable Energy?

On October 16, 2020, SETO and GE Research are hosting a workshop for researchers studying energy and quantum information science. Discussions will include possible near-term applications of quantum computers and research to unlock the potential of future computing technologies combined with next-generation energy sources. You’re invited to submit abstracts for 15-minute talks by August 1, 2020. Learn more.

Shedding Light: NREL's New Take on Inertia

A new report from NREL aims to educate policymakers and stakeholders on the value of inertia in grid reliability. “Inertia and the Power Grid: A Guide Without the Spin” discusses how inertia, which is the energy stored in large power systems like industrial motors, resists the drop in grid frequency by balancing out the supply and demand of electricity. Although solar PV and other inverter-based resources require little to no inertia, researchers learned that more conventional power systems are also at risk of failure without the energy of inertia to maintain grid reliability. Read the full report.


The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: Workshop Series
July 27-August 7 | 1 p.m. ET
The National Academies will host a series of workshops, Enhancing Federal Clean Energy Innovation, that explore clean energy innovation across the federal government. The series runs through August 7.

American-Made Solar Prize Round 2 Winners Announcement Event
August 28 | TBD
Join us for a live virtual event to find out who will win the grand prize of $500,000 in cash and $75,000 in support vouchers.

SETO in the News

Solar Photo of the Week

Solar Photo of the Week

South Boulder Recreation Center with solar-thermal and PV modules. Photo by Dennis Schroeder. Click the photo to download it.

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