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Photovoltaics Research and Development

PV-Activity areas-final-01.pngThe Photovoltaics (PV) program supports research and development projects that lower manufacturing costs, increase efficiency and performance, and improve reliability of PV technologies, in order to support the widespread deployment of electricity produced directly from sunlight (“photovoltaics”). The PV portfolio includes research directed toward the SunShot Initiative goals as well as critical challenges beyond 2020, after the SunShot program concludes.

Reaching the SunShot Goal

While the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of photovoltaics has decreased by roughly 50% since the launch of the SunShot Initiative, significant advances are still needed to reach the SunShot goals. The figure below illustrates different technology pathways to reaching the SunShot goal of $0.06/kWh for subsidy-free utility-scale solar power. All points on the iso-LCOE curves below attain the SunShot goal.


More information on the assumptions and calculations used to generate the figure above, as well as further analysis, can be found here.

Beyond 2020

Now that the goals of the SunShot Initiative are within sight, SunShot’s PV program is also focusing on opportunities for even greater cost reductions to address the next challenges beyond SunShot. As deployment levels increase, the price of PV electricity must decline even further to enable high penetration of this intermittent resource into electricity markets. For example, achieving an LCOE of $0.02-0.03/kWh by 2030 would allow for costs of several cents/kWh to address dispatchability and grid performance (e.g. for energy storage devices, demand side management, grid operation and planning, and advanced power electronics) while maintaining cost competitiveness.  

PV Program Impact

The PV program maintains U.S. leadership in PV R&D, with a strong record of impact over the past several decades. For example, over one half of the world’s PV cell efficiency records on the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s chart were supported by the PV program and its predecessors.


PV Project Portfolio 

The projects in the portfolio currently represent roughly $200 million of investment, made over periods from two to five years. Details about these programs and projects can be found here.

These pages provide more information about  key photovoltaic technologies: