The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) supports early-stage research and development in three technology areas: photovoltaics (PV), concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP), and systems integration with the goal of improving the affordability, reliability, and domestic benefit of solar technologies on the grid. Key activities:
- SETO supports cutting-edge technology development that drives U.S. leadership in solar energy and supports a growing and skilled workforce.
- SETO works to address challenges related to the integration of solar to the nation’s electricity grid.
- SETO provides relevant and objective technical information on solar technologies to stakeholders and decision-makers.
The director of the Solar Energy Technologies Office is Dr. Becca Jones-Albertus. See the leadership team and staff bios.
What We Do
SETO funds innovative cooperative research and development projects that drive down the cost of solar electricity and improve the performance of solar technologies that enhance grid reliability and security. These research projects can be found on our Solar Projects Map and reports resulting from our research can be found on the Office of Science and Technical Information (OSTI) website. Download an overview of the solar office and its active funding programs.
Starting in 2018, the office issues a single office-wide funding opportunity announcement (FOA) annually, which integrates all research areas into one document. Prior to that, FOAs typically only included one specific research areas. All FOAs are developed through a collaborative process in order to achieve the office's goals. Adhering to an open, highly competitive solicitation process, these funding opportunities encourage collaborative partnerships among industries; universities; national laboratories; federal, state, and local governments; and nongovernment organizations. View the office’s open funding opportunities and learn how to apply for them.
After FOA applications undergo a rigorous peer review process, projects are selected for negotiation to receive DOE funding. Upon the successful completion of this negotiation process, including collaboration on a statement of project objectives, milestones, and budgets, projects can begin.
SETO funds research in five areas in order to meet the goals of the office:
Photovoltaics – The photovoltaics (PV) research area focuses on developing new materials, increasing the amount of electricity solar cells and panels can produce, and increasing PV reliability. The PV team also supports the National Center for Photovoltaics at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which focuses on technology innovations that drive industry growth in PV manufacturing.
Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power – The concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) research area supports the development of novel CSP technologies that will help to lower cost, increase efficiency, and provide more reliable performance relative to current CSP technologies. This includes research and development that advances Generation 3 CSP technologies, which utilize high-temperature components and integrated assembly designs with thermal energy storage that can reach operating temperatures greater than 700 °C. The team also works to advance new applications for the technology, from solar desalination to steam generation for food processing.
Systems Integration – The Systems Integration (SI) research area enables the safe, reliable, and cost-effective integration of solar energy on the nation’s electricity grid. This includes collaboration with other program offices as part of the Department of Energy’s Grid Modernization Initiative to enable solar energy to support grid reliability, resilience and security.
Soft Costs – The soft costs research area works to develop solutions that reduce the non-hardware costs of solar, helping to ensure that U.S. consumers have access to affordable energy choices and to reduce regulatory burdens on American families and businesses. This includes programs that prepare the workforce to meet the solar energy industry’s growing needs across the country.
Manufacturing and Competitiveness – The manufacturing and competitiveness research area investigates and validates groundbreaking, early-stage solar technology to strengthen early-stage concepts and move them toward readiness for greater private sector investment and scale-up to commercialization. Prize programs, which leverage American innovation and competitive spirit to advance economic growth and energy security, fall in this category.
With nearly 300 projects, SETO helps to drive costs down and spur the solar energy innovation pipeline. Our success stories help to show the specific, measurable results from these projects. From solar cell technology breakthroughs to the software platforms and unlikely partnerships that are helping to reduce costs, these stories highlight the work behind solar's historic progress.
See Success Stories.
More About SETO