The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) encourages researchers across disciplines to apply for funding to support innovative projects that advance solar solutions. Teams, individuals, and collaborative partnerships from private companies, universities, National Laboratories, state and local governments, and nonprofits are all encouraged to apply.
There are numerous steps in the application process, which can take several months from start to finish. All submission deadlines are listed on the cover page of the FOA.
Successful applicants will be invited to negotiate a cooperative agreement with SETO. The cooperative agreement requires awardees to meet project milestones in order to continue receiving funding; this is unlike a grant, which offers a lump-sum payment. This approach ensures projects reach their intended objectives and protects taxpayer dollars.
Open Funding Opportunities
SETO lists all its funding opportunities on its website and announces them in regular newsletters for subscribers. Interested applicants will need to download the FOA from the EERE eXCHANGE, a web-based application system for federal financial assistance. The FOA document contains everything you need to know about the research topics, the application process, important deadlines, and other details. Section I provides specific information about the topic areas SETO will fund. These descriptions should guide you in developing successful applications. Section V.A provides technical merit criteria. These criteria guide judges in evaluating applications.
All applicants should carefully read the FOA and follow submission requirements. If there are any inconsistencies between the FOA and any presentations or statements from DOE personnel, the FOA is the controlling document and applicants should rely on the FOA language and seek clarification from SETO.
To apply for the FOA, you must register with the following systems:
EERE Funding Opportunity Exchange: All application materials are submitted through the EERE Exchange. Register to apply for the FOA at least 24 hours before the first submission deadline. EERE Exchange will soon be updated to integrate with Login.gov—a secure service used by the public to sign into participating government agencies. Beginning August 5, 2022 (date subject to change), all potential applicants and reviewers will need to have a Login.gov account to access eXCHANGE and apply to open opportunities. For more important information about this change, please read the MFA Quick Guide.
Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS): Your organization may already have a DUNS number, so check with your financial department or authorizing official. Applicants must enter the DUNS number on the Application for Federal Assistance (SF-424) form, in the “Organizational DUNS” field.
System of Award Management (SAM): You can use the SAM Status tracker to verify whether your organization is already registered. Note that registration requires a notarized letter that identifies an entity administrator, and it takes at least 10 business days to process registrations. This step is not necessary for the concept paper but must be completed before full applications are due.
Grants.gov: Use your DUNS number to create an account and receive email updates to any amendments to the FOA.
If your application is selected, you will need to register with FedConnect. This will enable you to accept your award and receive your award documents.
Letter of Intent (LOI)
Applicants may be required to submit a Letter of Intent (LOI). The LOI is a form in the EERE Program Information Center and not a letter that needs to be attached and submitted. It should not contain any proprietary or sensitive business information. This requirement will be detailed in the FOA and may contain information like organization type, the project team, and a short 200-word project description.
Applicants may be required to submit a concept paper. The purpose of the concept paper is to save applicants the considerable time and expense of preparing a full application that is unlikely to be selected for award negotiations. After submitting a concept paper, applicants will be notified whether they are “encouraged” or “discouraged” to submit a full application via the EERE Program Information Center. Applicants may submit a full application even if they receive a notification discouraging them from doing so.
The requirements for the concept paper are described in the FOA. It is generally limited to a single concept or technology and should include details like the project title, the specific FOA topic area being addressed (if applicable), the technical and business points of contact, names of all team member organizations, and any statements regarding confidentiality. It also includes a technical description that outlines the proposed technology, the current state of the art, and how the research would move that technology forward. Additionally, applicants should describe the proposed project team and how they will access the necessary equipment and facilities.
NOTE ON SMALL INNOVATIVE PROJECTS IN SOLAR (SIPS) PROJECTS: In lieu of a concept paper, applicants for SIPS must resubmit their LOI by the Concept Paper deadline.
Submitting the Full Application
Applicants will have about 30 days from the time their encouraged/discouraged notification is posted in the EERE Program Information Center to submit their full application. You should receive an email when your notification is posted. Always refer to the deadline date on the FOA cover page.
The FOA states the specific documents you should include with your submission according to topic area. Along with those documents, your technical volume, and one-page summary for public release, you must submit the following forms, which are in the EERE Program Information Center:
- Application for Federal Assistance (SF-424)
- Statement of Project Objectives (SOPO)
- Budget Justification (EERE 335)
- Disclosure of Lobbying Activities (SF-LLL)
- Summary Slide
In addition, applicants may have to provide one or more of these documents:
- U.S. Manufacturing Plan
- Contracting Officer Approval for DOE/National Nuclear Security Agency Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDC)
- Waiver requests for foreign entities and performance of work outside the United States
Merit Review Process
The merit review process includes a review of eligibility and a thorough technical review by independent experts in the subject matter of the funding opportunity. The selection official considers the reviewers’ recommendations, program policy factors as described in the published FOA, and the amount of funds available when selecting applications for negotiation of an award.
As part of the evaluation process, EERE may invite one or more applicants to participate in a pre-selection interview. If this process is used, it will be described in the FOA. Pre-selection interviews allow EERE to ask questions regarding the proposed project. The information provided by applicants to EERE through pre-selection interviews contributes to EERE’s selection decisions.
Most awardees are required to contribute to the total cost of the project. Cost sharing augments federal funding with awardee funding so that the project can have a greater impact. It also ensures that awardees have a financial stake in the success of the project.
All research and development projects are required to provide 20% cost share, and demonstration projects are required to provide 50% cost share. Applicants are required to provide written assurance of their proposed cost share contributions in their full applications. Cost share must be verifiable upon submission of the full application.
Each applicant is free to determine how best to allocate the cost share requirement among the project team members. The amount contributed by individual project team members may vary, as long as the cost share requirement for the project as a whole is met.
Applicants will be notified via the EERE Program Information Center if they have been selected to negotiate an award. Negotiation involves discussing the final scope of work, project milestones, and budget. A notification of selection for award negotiations is not a commitment from EERE to provide funding. If the applicant is not responsive during award negotiations and does not meet negotiation deadlines, this may result in rescission of the selection.
In addition, applicants may be required to submit a Data Management Plan (DMP). The DMP should, at minimum, (1) describe how the results from the proposed work will be validated if the data are not shared or preserved, and (2) have a plan for making all published data resulting from the proposed work digitally accessible at the time of publication.
Period of Performance
When negotiations are complete and the DOE contracting officer approves the award, a start date is established and the project work begins. Projects can last from one year to five years, depending on the FOA and the negotiated scope of work and schedule. Projects are initially funded for the first budget period, typically one year, with future budget periods contingent upon satisfactory performance and EERE’s Go/No-Go decision review. At the Go/No-Go decision points, EERE will evaluate project performance and other factors to make a determination to continue to fund the project, recommend redirection of work under the project, place a hold on federal funding for the project, or discontinue funding the project. The Go/No-Go decision criteria are described in the approved scope of work (Statements of Project Objectives).
This active project management ensures projects reach their intended objectives, helping to protect taxpayer dollars.
Email any questions to the FOA-specific email address found on the cover page of the FOA document.
If you have problems logging on to the EERE Program Information Center or uploading documents through it, email firstname.lastname@example.org and include the FOA name and number in the subject line.