US Energy Department opens purse for solar R&D

Funding totalling $105.5m earmarked for early-stage PV and CSP projects and grid integration technology

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has earmarked $105.5m to support around 70 PV and concentrating solar power (CSP) R&D projects, in another sign the Trump administration is warming to renewables’ economic argument.

The funds, being administered by the DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office , will also be used to advance grid-integration technologies and “efforts that prepare the [US] workforce for the solar industry’s future needs”.

“American ingenuity is the engine of our energy economy,” says US secretary of energy Rick Perry. “Investing in all of our abundant energy sources, including solar technologies, will help to drive down costs and ensure that the nation leads the world in energy production and innovation.”

The DOE said it aims “to drive economic and technological leadership in solar energy by supporting innovative research that improves energy choice and affordability”, via research projects targeting early-stage technologies that could “enable significant improvements” to the current US solar fleet.

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Some $46m will go to up to 14 advanced solar systems integration technologies, while $24m has been set aside for 21 CSP R&D projects. Another $27m will be awarded to 28 projects in the area of PV R&D, and $8.5m to four schemes that would “improve and expand” the solar industry through workforce initatives.

Abigail Ross Hopper, chief executive of industry advocacy body the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) says: "It is critically important that the US maintain its global leadership in the development of advanced, high-performing solar technologies for both the photovoltaic and concentrating solar power industries. Prioritising research and workforce development for the hundreds of thousands of Americans that solar employs is vital.

"Secretary Perry's announcement today is yet another positive step in strengthening this important public-private relationship between the federal government and the American solar industry.”

Earlier this month, US interior secretary Ryan Zinke spoke at New Jersey offshore wind conference, underscoring the Trump’s administration desire to “fully partner” with the emerging industry for economic, environmental, moral and strategic reasons, noting: “We think there is enormous opportunity for wind because of our God-given resources off the coast.”