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U.S. Department of Energy Awards $45 Million to Advance Solar Manufacturing and Grid Tech

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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $45 million for projects that will help seamlessly integrate clean energy sources onto the grid, supporting the Biden Administration’s goal of a decarbonised power sector by 2035. As solar and other renewable energy are rapidly deployed throughout the country, these projects are developing new technologies and capabilities to bolster the resilience of the U.S. electric grid. The funding, which also creates a new $25 million consortium, will advance the domestic manufacturing of solar energy and electric grid technologies.

To flip the switch on climate change, the government needs a grid that’s chock full of cheap and accessible renewable energy. The universities, small businesses and national labs behind these projects are building the critical components of America’s future grid, making it more resilient on the way to a 100% clean power system.

Secretary of Energy

Renewable energy is America’s largest source of new electricity generation, with hundreds of gigawatts of solar and wind expected to come online in the next 15 years. Maintaining a reliable, high-renewable grid requires technologies and industry standards that can seamlessly coordinate renewable resources and restart the grid if it goes down.

When the power goes out today, a grid operator must first turn on a spinning turbine—often from a coal or gas-fired power plant—that sends a signal for other power sources to match. Grid-forming inverters will allow renewable sources to create that signal, eliminating the need for a turbine.

The selected projects will:

  • Create a public-private consortium on grid integration technology (Award amount: $25 million)– The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the University of Washington, and the Electric Power Research Institute will co-lead an industry-wide consortium to advance research on grid-forming inverters — an emerging technology that allows solar and other inverter-based energy sources to restart the grid without a spinning turbine, typically an oil or coal-fired power plant. This consortium will include national labs, universities and minority-serving institutions, equipment manufacturers, utilities and bulk power system operators.
  • Provide utilities better data about rooftop solar power generation (Award amount: $6 million) – Two projects led by GridBright, Inc. (Alamo, California) and the University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) will develop sensor hardware and system designs that will help utilities understand how much renewable energy is being generated by residential and commercial solar photovoltaics (PV), strengthening the reliability of the electricity grid.
  • Advance the commercialisation of American-made solar innovations (Award amount: $14 million)– Nine solar hardware and manufacturing projects will receive DOE funding to accelerate the commercialisation of innovative technologies that can lower the cost of solar technologies and help to integrate solar electricity into the nation’s energy grid. Among the projects include a new solar heat system to dry out sewage and convert it to fertilizer, which would help decarbonise the agricultural, wastewater, and industrial sectors and a project to develop a low-cost device to help prevent solar system electrical fires.

The projects are part of DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2021 Systems Integration and Hardware Incubator funding program of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). EERE’s mission is to accelerate the research, development, demonstration, and deployment of technologies and solutions to equitably transition America to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by no later than 2050.

The projects and work supported through EERE aim to ensure the clean energy economy benefits all Americans, creating well-paying jobs for the American people—especially workers and communities impacted by the energy transition and those historically underserved by the energy system and overburdened by pollution.

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