Department of Energy grants funds for clean energy research

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The U.S. Department of Energy announced on April 5 that the department will put forth more than $112 million to fund research on making solar energy a more viable competitor against less clean options, $25 million of which went to the Bay Area Photovoltaics Consortium, an effort led by UC Berkeley and Stanford University to lower the cost of solar energy.

The grant comes as a part of the SunShot Initiative, which aims to decrease the cost of a watt of solar energy by about 75 percent by 2020 - from $3.80 per watt in 2010 to $1 per watt.

The consortium, headed by Ali Javey, a UC Berkeley associate professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences, and Yi Cui, associate professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford University, is a five-year long project formed with the intent to research and develop new materials and processes to manufacture photovoltaic systems in high volume at a lower cost.

The remainder of the $112 million will go to two other groups - SVTC Technologies in San Jose and the U.S. Photovoltaic Manufacturing Consortium in Albany, N.Y. and Palm Bay, Fla., which received $25 million and $62.5 million, respectively.

SVTC Technologies will focus on the industry side of photovoltaic development. By creating a fee-for-service PV manufacturing development facility, the group will eliminate many of the upfront costs associated with developing photovoltaic systems. The U.S. Photovoltaic Manufacturing Consortium will work with the actual materials and technology involved in making photovoltaic systems to accelerate their development and bring down the costs so that the systems can be sold commercially.

Although in its infant stages, the Bay Area consortium already includes 16 photovoltaic-related companies to help focus its research and will start providing grants to interested research institutions, universities and national laboratories shortly after its start-up date in June.

Claire Perlman is the lead research and ideas reporter. Contact her at [email protected]

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