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 power (CSP), and systems integration with the goal of improving the affordability, reliability, and performance 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. Charlie Gay. See the leadership team.
The office conducts research in five program areas:
- Photovoltaics – The photovoltaics (PV) subprogram works with industry, academia, national laboratories, and other government agencies to advance solar PV by developing new PV 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. It is a central resource for our nation’s capabilities in PV research, development, deployment, and outreach.
- Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power – The concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) subprogram 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 team supports 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 subprogram works to enable the safe, reliable, and cost-effective integration of solar energy on the nation’s electricity grid. The systems integration subprogram collaborates 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/Balance of Systems – The soft costs subprogram 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. DOE-led initiatives build networks to support the development and diffusion of best practices that establish clear pathways for sustainable solar deployment across the U.S., for the benefit of all Americans.
- Technology to Market – The technology to market subprogram—also known as Innovations in Manufacturing Competitiveness—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. Technology to market, in close collaboration with the office’s other subprograms, also manages several prize programs, which leverage American innovation and competitive spirit to advance economic growth and energy security.
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.
Starting in 2018, the office has issued a single office-wide FOA each year, which integrates the funding opportunities of each sub-program into one document. Prior to that, each of the subprograms issued more specific funding opportunity announcements (FOA). All FOAs developed through a collaborative process that work 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.
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.
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.