SETO Newsletter: Solar Desalination Prize Quarterfinalists Announced; Solar Cleaning Device Enters Marketplace

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Solar Energy Technologies Office


Top News: Solar Desalination Prize Selections; Solar District Cup Participants Announced; A Solar Success Story

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) announced the quarterfinalists competing in the Solar Desalination (Desal) Prize; the Solar District Cup has its Class of 2021 participants; we have a success story about a device that streamlines solar panel cleaning; project profiles for small-business awardees; a new funding opportunity; a concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) workshop series; the National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP) virtual summit; and job openings at SETO.

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

Worth Our Salt: Solar Desal Prize Competitors Announced 

On October 19, DOE announced the 19 quarterfinalists in the $9 million Solar Desalination Prize, a competition accelerating the development of solar-thermal energy systems that produce clean water from nontraditional, high-salinity water sources. The quarterfinalists will receive $50,000 in cash, move on to the second phase to establish their teams—including commercial partners and a host facility—and refine their designs for a fully operational system. The semifinalists will be announced in March 2021. In the meantime, learn more about these 19 innovative proposals.

Solar Desalination Prize

Cleaning Up: How a Device for Solar Panels Got to Market

Dirt accumulation on solar panels can significantly reduce their energy output. Cleaning them can be expensive, but a solar Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awardee has developed a solution. Fracsun received more than $1 million in SBIR funding to develop its Automatic Reference for Empirical Soiling (ARES) device. The ARES device cleans and collects data from solar panels, then creates an optimal cleaning schedule that helps PV operators save money. Now the company has customers around the country. Find out how Fracsun got there—and how ARES works—in this success story.

Let’s Stay Together: Connected Communities Funding Opportunity  

DOE recently announced a $65 million funding opportunity to improve the ability of energy-efficient “smart” buildings that interact with solar and other distributed energy resources to optimize energy performance and affordability for their occupants. SETO is participating in this program with DOE’s buildings, vehicles, and electricity offices, and will award up to $7 million to four to six projects to study building types, grid attributes, and regulatory structures within new and existing communities around the country. Register for the informational webinar taking place on November 10 at 2 p.m. ET to learn more.

The Solar District Cup 2021 Starting Lineup

On October 6, DOE announced the participants of the Solar District Cup Class of 2021, a collegiate competition in which students design and model optimized distributed energy systems for an assigned campus or urban district. This year’s cohort includes 59 student teams from 56 schools. Learn more about what these teams will accomplish and how you can get involved.  

Solar District Cup Class of 2021

CSP Virtual Workshop Series 

This month SETO launched a CSP workshop series featuring panels and discussions with global CSP experts on recent technological advances and upcoming challenges in research and development. Register for the next workshop in the series, Next-Generation Receivers, taking place on October 29, 2020, at 1 p.m. ET. Read about the upcoming workshops, view the agendas and slides from previous workshops, and learn more about SETO’s CSP initiatives.  

Small Businesses with Million-Dollar Ideas

Meet the seven small solar companies that received about $1 million in fiscal year 2019 to develop their prototypes through the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer program. Their innovations address cybersecurity, communication, hardware, and more. After completing a feasibility study and developing a proof of concept with Phase I program funding, the companies will use these awards to develop their prototypes. Learn more about each project:


Request for Information: Installing New Energy Technologies in Federal Buildings 

DOE and the General Services Administration (GSA) recently issued a request for information (RFI) to identify innovative solar photovoltaic (PV) and other next-generation technologies that can be installed on federal properties as part of the GSA Proving Ground program. The program is looking for information about U.S.-manufactured high-efficiency PV cell and module designs, building-integrated PV, and more. Register for the informational webinar taking place on November 5 at 10 a.m. ET to learn more.

Apply to Work at SETO

SETO is hiring a general engineer on our Systems Integration team and a program manager for our Manufacturing and Competitiveness team. General engineer responsibilities include evaluating technology area portfolios; performing and interpreting calculations, analyses, and computations; and planning new programs, including workshops, merit reviews, briefings, and award negotiations. The program manager will be responsible for planning, budgeting, implementing, managing, and evaluating initiatives, and communicating their objectives to industry stakeholders. Learn more and apply.

In Brief…

  • About 20% of the oral presentations at the SolarPACES 2020 conference were from SETO Generation 3 CSP funding program awardees. Check out CSP Program Manager Avi Shultz’s plenary session.
  • Speaking of CSP: Submit your abstracts for the Materials Research Society Spring Meeting and Exhibit by October 29 at 11:59 p.m. ET.
  • Check out this blog post for updates on the International Center for Appropriate and Sustainable Technology’s fiscal year 2018 project, focused on bringing solar to multifamily affordable housing in low-income communities.

Shedding Light: Power Electronics and the Future of Energy
In “Ubiquitous Power Electronics in Future Power Systems,” co-authored by SETO Systems Integration Program Manager Guohui Yuan, you’ll learn that power electronics are changing how the U.S. power system operates. They’re playing a much greater role in electricity infrastructure as it evolves with the rapid growth of solar and wind energy resources. This article explains how power electronics will affect power system dynamics and inertia, smaller devices, and controls—and the advances that are necessary to take full advantage of these technologies. Learn more about SETO’s power electronics work.  


NCSP Virtual Summit 
October 29 | 12 p.m. ET
Join SETO Director Dr. Becca Jones-Albertus and staff as they discuss NCSP innovations and progress at the virtual summit.

CSP Workshop Series: Next-Generation Receivers
October 29 | 1 p.m. ET
Led by SETO CSP Program Manager Avi Shultz, the CSP team will run panels and discussions about the latest technologies and challenges related to next-generation receivers.

Reuters Events: PV Operations and Financial Strategies 2020 Virtual Conference 
November 12 | 9:10 a.m. ET
SETO Director Becca Jones-Albertus will discuss the reliability of solar and more, on the keynote panel, “The Strategic Future for Solar PV Energy.”

Energy Systems Integration Group: 2020 Fall Technical Workshop – Closing Plenary Session
November 12 | 2:00 p.m. ET
SETO Director Becca Jones-Albertus will discuss solar PV technology at the closing plenary session, “Generation and Storage Technology – Status and Prospects.”

SETO in the News

Solar Photo of the Week

solar photo of the week

Heliostats and solar tower at the Ivanpah Solar Project. Photo by Dennis Schroeder. Click to download.

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