Solar SBIR STTR Graphic

**DOE announced awards for this funding opportunity on May 21, 2020. Read the announcement and learn more about the awards.**


The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program encourages U.S.-based small businesses to engage in high-risk, innovative research and technology development with the potential for future commercialization. The program is managed by the Energy Department’s Office of Science and awards projects in technology areas across the entire department. It is part of the larger SBIR program across the federal government, which is administered by the Small Business Administration. Learn more about these programs’ past awards in solar energy.

Commercialization Assistance Program

We encourage applicants to take advantage of the Commercialization Assistance Program. It provides additional funding, on top of the SBIR/STTR funding, to be used specifically for commercialization activities. Please read the funding opportunity announcement, which contains more information about this program and how to apply for this extra funding. The commercialization assistance provider must be selected at the time of application.

The American-Made Network is a great resource for finding commercialization assistance providers and vendors with specific expertise in the solar space. The Network helps accelerate and sustain solar innovation through a diverse and powerful group that includes energy incubators, investors, facilities, and industry partners from across the U.S. The Network can help competitors solve pressing technology challenges, forge connections, and advance novel ideas and innovations. It also leverages highly specialized skills, tools, and expertise to strengthen and scale critical connections to support the progress and success of competitors.

SBIR/STTR is an ongoing funding program. Topic 11 in the Fiscal Year 2020 Phase 1 covers solar energy technologies and has two specific subtopics:

11a: TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER OPPORTUNITY: Microwave Photoconductance Spectrometer for Roll-to-Roll Deposited Semiconductor Materials

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has developed measurements of microwave photoconductance, a material characterization technique that allows for the verification of material quality, that are now an established industrial and scientific tool for studying photovoltaic materials. However, commercially available tools are designed around silicon manufacturing technology, which are complex and expensive. The advent of new photovoltaic materials that will be manufactured through roll-to-roll printing processes present new challenges and opportunities for the scientific study of these measurements. It is anticipated that as roll-to-roll fabrication processes begin to dominate the photovoltaic market, the proposed metrology method will naturally displace existing tools that were developed and designed for the wafer manufacturing paradigm. SBIR/STTR is looking for a partner to develop NREL’s lab-scale microwave photoconductance instrument into a prototype of a viable commercial metrology tool.

11b: Affordability, Reliability, and Performance of Solar Technologies

Solar is more than a source of affordable electricity; it also provides the potential to improve grid reliability and resilience, increase employment, create business opportunities, increase energy diversity, expand domestic manufacturing, and provide environmental benefits. In this subtopic, the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) is seeking solutions that can advance solar energy technologies by lowering costs as well as facilitate its secure integration into the nation’s electric grid. Applications should fall within one of these areas: advanced solar systems integration technologies, concentrating solar-thermal power technologies, or photovoltaic (PV) technologies. SETO is particularly interested in applications developing:

  • Technologies which can reduce the manufacturing costs of solar energy system components or sub-components to boost domestic energy manufacturing and increase U.S. manufacturing competiveness;
  • Technologies that can measure, validate, or increase PV system reliability;
  • Technologies which enhance the ability of solar energy systems to contribute to grid reliability, resiliency, and security;
  • Technologies or solutions that reduce the balance of system costs of a PV system;
  • Technologies that build on other SETO programs and/or leverage results and infrastructure developed through these programs.

Applicants may also apply for the Advanced Manufacturing Office's (AMO) solar-related topic, 'Thermal Energy Storage in Industry and Relevant Materials Manufacturing (16b).'

Key Dates 

Topics Issue Date:November 12, 2019
FOA Issue Date:December 16, 2019
Solar-Focused Topics Webinar:Watch the recording (password: 2bP3MfKE) *Note, recording is not compatible with Internet Explorer 
DOE FOA Webinar: December 19, 2019, 2:00pm ET Register
Deadline for Mandatory Letter of Intent:January 6, 2020 5:00pm ET
Deadline for Full Applications:February 24, 2020 11:59pm ET
Expected Date for Selection Notifications:May 18, 2020

Additional Information

Download the full funding opportunity announcement here (PDF), which contains application instructions.

Learn more about all of the topics for FY 2020 Phase 1 Release 2 (PDF).

For FOA-specific support, contact

See more funding opportunities from SETOsign up for our newsletter, and join the SBIR listserv to keep up to date with the latest news.

Questions and Answers

Subtopic 11a

Can you provide patent application numbers for the technology?

Application Serial Number:  PCT/US19/30078; Publication No.: WO 2019/213182 A1. Google Patents:

Does the material have to be translucent to be analyzed?

The material does not have to be translucent or transparent to be analyzed, we have demonstrated both transmission and reflection modes.

When using this technology for defect screening, what is the spatial resolution of the technology? How small a defect can be identified (i.e. can a sub-micron defect be identified)?

The defect will not be directly measured (i.e. visualized) by this technique. However, the indirect impact of the defect, especially if detrimental to the quality of the material, will be measured by a decrease in the overall photoconductivity signal. Therefore, the defect density has the most impact on screening.

What will be the time resolution, i.e. how fast will it be able to scan the surface?

The top speed will be a function of several variables: the photoconductivity the sample, sampling rate, averaging (due to environment noise), the hardware quality, and the optical pump source. If noise is low and signal is high, typical R2R coating speeds should be plausible.

Subtopic 11b

Does Subtopic 11b include “technologies which enhance the ability of solar energy systems to contribute to grid reliability, resiliency and security” by using concentrated solar thermal energy directly, without converting it to electricity, to remove peak demand from the grid?

Yes, SETO is interested in solar thermal technologies even if thermal energy is not directly converted into electricity.

Is a solution focused on the reduction of soft costs / procurement costs responsive? 

Yes. However, the Applicant should clearly demonstrate that the proposed solution is not duplicative with what is already available in the market, especially solutions to facilitate system design or system monitoring, and solutions to improve customer acquisition processes.

Does the subtopic require a physical product or can it be only software?

We will consider hardware technologies, hardware solutions that require also software innovation, integrated hardware/software solutions, and software-only solutions. However, in the case of software-only solutions, the Applicant should clearly demonstrate that the proposed solution is not duplicative with what is already available in the market.

Are technologies or new (hardware) design solutions impacting multiple areas, i.e. improve reliability and at the same time reducing costs, of interest?

Yes, absolutely. We look for solutions that include technical advances as well as cost reductions and/or market pull.

Is a new technology of interest if it is not specific for solar PV film/panel technology, but for other component of the solar?

Yes, absolutely. This subtopic is open to module-level technologies as well as system-level technologies and any other technology impacting the affordability, reliability, and performance of solar technologies.

Is bi-facial solar PV of interest for this subtopic?


Is there a preference for utility-scale applications versus distributed PV applications?

No, we are interested in technologies that can have an impact on any market (residential/distributed energy resources, commercial and industrial, utility-scale).

Does the technology development have to be directly on solar equipment or could it be development of other grid-connected equipment that enables more solar integration?

Solutions related to grid-connected equipment that enable more solar integration can be responsive to this topic.

Is the reduction of operations and maintenance costs (including innovation in cleaning of solar panels) of interest in this subtopic?


Will SETO consider applications for early stage energy storage technologies that can cycle daily and thus make solar much more "dispatchable”?

Yes, as long as the Applicant makes a strong and clear case that the technology can be directly paired with solar (meaning co-located or accepting a voltage range compatible with common solar inverter outputs) and that the storage technology properties and performances have a direct impact on the dispatchability of solar generation.