SETO Newsletter: Two Big Solar Funding Announcements, Two Prize Winners, and One Solar Office Opportunity

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Solar Energy Technologies Office


Top News: Apply for Small-Business Funding; Grid-Forming Technologies and Solar Product Projects Wanted; Solar Prize Announcements 

Welcome to the last Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) newsletter of 2020! We’re not slowing down: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced a funding opportunity for small businesses to develop solar innovations and a $45 million funding opportunity for solar hardware and grid-forming technologies. You can also find out who won Round 3 of the American-Made Solar Prize and check out the Round 4 semifinalists, download the last quarterly stakeholder webinar of the year, and apply for an opportunity to join the SETO team.

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

Attention, Small Businesses: Apply for Solar Funding 

If you’re a small U.S.-based company looking to make a big difference in solar, DOE can help. Apply for this funding opportunity through the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. Funding can range from $50,000 to $250,000 for six months or one year. The deadline to submit your mandatory letter of intent is January 4, 2021, at 5:00 p.m. ET. Learn more about this opportunity and its topic areas.

Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer Funding

DOE Announces New Funding for Solar Hardware and Systems Integration 

On December 16, DOE announced it will award up to $45 million for research projects that will advance solar hardware and systems integration, including the creation of a grid-forming technologies research consortium dedicated to advancing technologies that support the resiliency of the modernized electric grid. SETO’s 2021 Systems Integration and Hardware Incubator funding program will issue 10 to 20 awards, ranging from $500,000 to $25 million. Register for the informational webinar on January 6, 2021, at 1 p.m. ET, and submit a mandatory letter of intent by January 11, 2021, at 5 p.m. ET.

2021 Solar Funding Opportunity

The Winner’s Circle: Solar Prize Announcements

On December 4, DOE announced the two grand-prize winners of the American-Made Solar Prize Round 3. Ten finalists presented their innovations to a panel of judges at the Solar Prize Demo Day, and two walked away with $500,000 in cash, plus $75,000 in technical support vouchers. The Round 3 winners are:

  • Maxout Renewables (Livermore, CA)
  • Wattch, Inc. (Atlanta, GA)

The 20 Round 4 semifinalists were also announced, and these teams will move on to the next phase of the competition using their $50,000 cash prizes to develop a proof of concept for their solar innovations. We’ll see what they come up with in March at the next demo day. Stay tuned for details on how to join the event.

Solar Prize

Make Solar Brighter: Join Us! 

The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education Science and Technology Policy is seeking the next generation of leaders in solar energy technologies to help advance SETO’s mission. This is a paid opportunity for recent graduates with a bachelor’s, master’s, and/or Ph.D. degree in quantitative fields and established professionals with relevant post-degree experience. Participants will help the solar office design initiatives that advance photovoltaic, concentrating solar-thermal power, and systems integration technologies, and support tech transfer, analysis, and soft-costs reduction activities. Learn more and apply by January 15, 2021.

Meet the Finalists Reimagining Energy Systems 

SETO and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have selected 35 student teams from 34 schools as finalists in the Solar District Cup Class of 2021, a collegiate competition to reimagine energy systems for a campus or urban district. They will advance their designs and submit them to a panel of judges that will determine the winners in April 2021. Learn more about the finalists and their innovations.

Solar District Cup Finalists

Let’s Rewind: SETO’s Year-End Stakeholder Webinar 

About 200 people attended SETO’s quarterly stakeholder webinar on December 17, as SETO Director Dr. Becca Jones-Albertus discussed how the office supports small businesses, U.S. solar manufacturing, and the commercialization of new solar technologies. Special guests were Leila Madrone, founder and chief technical officer of Sunfolding; Catlin Mattheis, co-founder of Fracsun; and Bill Nussey, CEO and co-founder of Solar Inventions—a winner of the American-Made Solar Prize. Download the presentation and stay tuned for the date of our next quarterly webinar.

Shedding Light: The Loan Program Office 

DOE’s Loan Program Office (LPO) fills a need that the private sector often can’t by providing access to debt capital, flexible financing options, and expertise for large-scale infrastructure and solar energy projects that deploy brand-new, innovative technologies. LPO also offers technical and legal environmental compliance expertise for projects. Learn more about LPO by watching a video.


SunSpec Cyberguardians Training: Introduction to Cybersecurity in the Smart Energy Environment
January 12–March 13 | Online
Cybersecurity has become increasingly important for the safety and reliability of the electric grid. This course explores related topics and analyzes and applies cybersecurity for Smart Energy distributed energy resource (DER) technology. Register today.

Solar Lending Professional Training - Virtual Series 
January 20–February 24 | Wednesdays at 4 p.m. ET
The University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy will offer free training for community-based lending practitioners to expand their knowledge of solar finance. Register today.

SETO in the News

Solar Photo of the Week

Solar Photo of the Week

Installing PV modules on the roof of the parking structure on the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s South Table Mountain campus. Photo by Dennis Schroeder. Click to download.

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