Portland, Ore. -- The Department of Energy has begun funding solutions to the engineering and infrastructure problems that must be solved before widespread commercialization of current photovoltaic technologies can become a reality.
Called the Solar America Initiative, the 2007 DOE Budget set aside $148 million to accelerate the development of photovoltaic cells ranging from those made from monocrystalline, polycrystalline and amorphous silicon structures, as well as those based on thin films, organic polymers and quantum wells.
The U.S. Department of Energy has issued a Notice of Program Interest to the industry, universities and other potential partners to help plan topics, program phases, technologies and procurement strategies to meet that goal.
At 480 watts, a solar cell array powers a lake aeration pump, providing oxygen in winter to improve fish's chances of survival. |
"We want to transition away from researching ways to improve the efficiency of photovoltaic devices, to reduce the total cost of system installations," said SAI program manager Craig Cornelius. "Our goal is to make the cost of electricity from photovoltaic systems competitive with retail electricity prices by 2015."
"We want business and consumers in every part of America to be making a sound economical decision," he said. "We believe that entails bringing the total system cost down about 50 percent."
To start, Solar America will try to see what obstacles remain to commercialization, then enlist EEs and others to solve those problems. The program aims to develop multiple competing solar cell technologies by 2015 to provide electricity at a cost per kilowatt-hour that equals or exceeds what the grid offers.
"Today, in many parts of the country, you can install a photovoltaic system and be in a positive cash flow within three years, but the Solar America Initiative aims to bring that down to a year," said Cornelius. "The key metric is 5 to 10 cents/kWh for solar cells by 2015. We also want to promote a metering model . . . that permits the consumer to sell their unused electricity back to the utility companies--literally to run their meter backward during periods of excess capacity."