The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in collaboration with the Minority-Serving Institution (MSI) STEM Research and Development Consortium (MSRDC), awarded $3.2 million for eight projects at seven MSIs through the recently announced Science and Technology Research Partnership program. These projects will advance the Biden Administration’s goals of advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM fields and funding innovative clean energy research and development.
The goal of this pilot program is to engage new researchers and expand solar research expertise at MSIs, which have been historically underrepresented in the DOE research portfolio. The selected institutions represent several categories of MSIs: Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI), and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI).
“This pilot program is a great opportunity to support and expand a diverse STEM workforce, prioritizing minority-serving institutions in DOE’s research ecosystem,” said Kelly Speakes-Backman, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “We’re proud to partner with these researchers as they bring innovative ideas and deep scientific expertise to advance solar energy on behalf of all Americans.”
The selected projects span a wide array of solar energy technology research areas: from photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) technologies to increasing energy resilience and ensuring a just clean energy transition. The projects will span two years and include career and performance training for team members as part of their award.
- University of the District of Columbia, an HBCU, received $400,000 to improve the efficiency and stability of perovskite solar cells, an emerging PV technology with potential for U.S. manufacturing.
- Texas State University, an HSI, received $400,000 to create a solar energy and energy storage sharing platform to boost community energy resilience.
- San Diego State University, an HSI and AANAPISI, received $400,000 to analyze the impacts of power outages on the health, food security, financial wellbeing, and resilience of disadvantaged communities.
- University of Arizona, an HSI, received $400,000 to create a hybrid classroom and field experience program to train members of underrepresented groups on solar technology and promote emerging career opportunities in clean energy.
- University of New Mexico, an HSI, received $400,000 each for two projects. The first will design new systems to grow agricultural crops under solar panels using machine learning and emerging PV technologies. The second will demonstrate the potential of a cheaper, more reliable heat exchanger to generate electricity and decarbonize industrial processes in CSP plants.
- University of Nevada, Las Vegas, an HSI, received $400,000 to build an innovative small-scale CSP system prototype that could reduce costs and improve efficiency to enable widespread deployment of small, distributed CSP systems for clean energy generation.
- Florida A&M University, an HBCU, received $400,000 to develop models to optimize operating strategies for solar thermal energy storage technologies, maximizing their value and enabling them to integrate with multiple renewable energy sources.
DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office partnered with MSRDC to develop this pilot program to build relationships between the DOE and MSIs. This program seeks to serve as a template for other DOE offices to expand their outreach and research portfolios to these institutions.