The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) supports early-stage research and development to improve the flexibility and performance of solar technologies that contribute to supporting the reliability, resilience, and security of the U.S. electric grid. The office invests in innovative research efforts that securely integrate more solar energy into the grid, enhance the use and storage of solar energy, and lower solar electricity costs. Through competitive solicitations and attentive project management, the solar office strategically addresses critical research gaps, ensuring the solar industry has the technological foundations necessary to continue growth and preserve American energy choice, independence, and security.
SETO launched the SunShot Initiative in 2011 with the objective of making solar electricity costs competitive with other generation sources by 2020, without subsidies. In September 2017, the office announced the utility-scale solar goal had been met three years ahead of schedule. The office will continue to work to lower the cost of solar energy and has established a goal to halve the cost of solar energy by 2030. As the cost of solar comes down, more Americans can take advantage of the clean, affordable power that solar provides. Learn more about the SunShot Initiative and the solar cost goals.
With the dramatic reduction in the cost of solar, installations have soared, creating new challenges for the aging electricity grid. To account for these changing needs, in September 2017 the office announced that the program will focus on solar energy research and development efforts that help to address the nation’s critical energy challenges: grid reliability, resilience, and affordability. Read more.
The Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) is the primary office within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that funds innovations in solar power. The office is housed within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).
Where we fit in the Energy Department (See full organization chart):
The director of the Solar Energy Technologies Office is Dr. Charlie Gay. See the leadership team.
The Solar Energy Technologies Office is comprised of five subprograms:
- Photovoltaics – The photovoltaics subprogram works with industry, academia, national laboratories, and other government agencies to advance solar PV. This team supports research and development to aggressively advance PV technology by improving efficiency, energy yield, reliability and lowering manufacturing costs. The office’s PV portfolio spans work from early-stage solar cell research through technology commercialization, including work on materials, processes, and device structure and characterization techniques.
- 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 when compared to current technologies. These projects demonstrate new concepts in the collector, receiver, thermal storage, heat transfer fluids, and power cycle subsystems, as well as technologies that will lower operations and management costs. The CSP subprogram is most interested in transformative concepts with the potential to break through existing performance barriers, such as efficiency and temperature limitations.
- Systems Integration – The systems integration subprogram works to enable the widespread deployment of safe, reliable, and cost effective solar energy on the nation’s electricity grid by addressing the associated technical challenges and regulatory requirements. The systems integration team focuses on the research and development of cost effective technologies and solutions that enable the sustainable and holistic integration of hundreds of gigawatts of solar generation onto the power grid.
- Soft Costs – The soft costs subprogram works to develop strategies and solutions that directly reduce the costs and barriers to solar access and deployment. It supports leaders at the local level in developing innovative strategies and solutions that make going solar faster, cheaper, and easier. DOE-funded programs build networks to support the development and diffusion of proven and effective programs 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 technology, software, and business models to strengthen early-stage concepts and move them toward readiness for greater private sector investment and scale-up to commercialization. Technology to market targets two significant funding gaps: funding of initial proof of concept and the pre-commercial stage. The subprogram funds projects that address innovations in solar, energy grid, technology performance, supply chain, and manufacturing.
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. We work to make it faster, easier, and more affordable for Americans to choose solar energy to power their daily lives. View the office’s open funding opportunities.
Each of the subprograms issues funding opportunity announcements (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 industry, universities, national laboratories, federal, state, and local governments and non-government organizations.
After FOA applications undergo a rigorous peer-evaluated selection 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. After projects are selected, the FOA is now officially a DOE funding program. View SETO's funding programs in each of the subprograms here: photovoltaics, concentrating solar thermal power, systems integration, soft costs, and technology to market.
Why It Matters
SETO’s work helps to promote affordable and reliable energy options for all Americans. The solar industry has been a proven driver of job growth and energy innovation. In addition to game-changing, cost-lowering R&D, DOE’s solar office will continue to lower solar costs and increase grid resiliency across the country to diversify the U.S. domestic energy supply.
A future in which the solar program meets its goals will ultimately benefit every American by:
- Making clean, low-cost, reliable solar energy available for home owners, communities, businesses, and government;
- Increasing the resiliency and reliability of the electricity grid;
- Establishing U.S. leadership in clean energy innovation; and
- Creating U.S. jobs through domestic production of solar materials and equipment, manufacturing, distribution, financing, installation, and maintenance.
With nearly 300 projects, SETO's work 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.