Energy Department investing in domestic solar manufacturing

May 21, 2024

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced a $71 million investment to support research, development and demonstration projects to expand the network of domestic manufacturers within the solar energy supply chain. The projects will target needs, such as equipment, silicon ingots and wafers, and both silicon and thin-film solar cell manufacturing.

Selected projects will also seek to create opportunities for solar technologies such as dual-use photovoltaic (PV) applications, which include integrating solar panels into buildings and implementing “agrivoltaic” systems – in which crops are grown under or adjacent to solar panels.

Funds will go toward “building an American-made solar supply chain that boosts innovation, drives down costs for families, and delivers jobs across the nation,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said.

DOE has chosen three projects for its Silicon Solar Manufacturing and Dual-Use Photovoltaics Incubator funding program to spur innovations that bring silicon wafer and cell manufacturing back to the U.S. This $18.1 million investment will support development and validation, with the goal of these technologies qualifing for funding to expand manufacturing operations on the way to commercial viability.

An additional $8.4 million will go to seven projects in dual-use PV technologies to explore potential ways to reduce carbon emissions in transportation and mitigate conflicts over land use.

Thin-film PV technologies, such as cadmium telluride (CdTe) and perovskites, offer several potential advantages over current silicon technology. These include manufacturing processes that use less energy, lower production costs, simplify supply chains and have higher lifetime energy output.

Of the eight projects selected by DOE for the Advancing U.S. Thin-Film Solar Photovoltaics funding program, four will focus on boosting efficiency, reducing costs and strengthening the supply chain for CdTe systems.

The DOE’s Solar Photovoltaics Supply Chain Review identified CdTe as a promising way to expand domestic solar panel production. Improving the efficiency of material usage and recycling processes during panel construction would enhance the competitiveness of domestic CdTe PV technology.

Four other projects will explore tandem PV devices that combine established PV technologies such as silicon and copper indium gallium diselenide with perovskites, a thin-film approach nearing market readiness that could be manufactured in the United States.

Photo by Manny Becerra on Unsplash

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