The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) supports solar manufacturing and competitiveness research to develop pathways to commercialization for high-impact innovation in the solar industry. The goal is to move technologies to market by strengthening innovative concepts and increasing their readiness for greater private sector investment and scale-up to commercialization.
Research and development in solar manufacturing and competitiveness helps to build a strong clean energy manufacturing sector and supply chain that produce cost-competitive clean energy products and keep pace with the rising domestic and global demand for affordable solar energy. Additionally, this research area helps small businesses develop ideas into successful technologies that benefit the solar industry. Cost analysis is also a critical component that ties all of SETO’s work together to measure the current state of the solar industry. All of this work will help SETO reach its goal of making solar energy more affordable and equitable.
In September 2021, DOE released the Solar Futures Study, a report that explores the role of solar energy in achieving these goals as part of a decarbonized U.S. electric grid. Learn more about SETO’s goals.
Within SETO’s manufacturing and competitiveness research area, efforts are focused on several topics. Learn more about them below.
SETO funding for manufacturing and competitiveness research projects covers a wide variety of technologies including photovoltaics, concentrating solar power, and power electronics, as well as non-hardware costs such as customer acquisition, permitting, financing, interconnection, inspection, and workforce development. Generally, projects target funding gaps that occur in the initial proof of concept, pre-commercial, and pilot operation stages. These projects are managed by the manufacturing and competitiveness team. Reports resulting from research projects can be found on the Office of Science and Technical Information (OSTI) website.
In 2018–2020, SETO conducted a rigorous analysis to assess the impact of the Incubator program on the likelihood of its awardees later raising follow-on funding. SETO published the findings in March 2022—read the full report.
As shown in the graphic above, funding for manufacturing and competitiveness research is mainly divided between funding opportunities, the American-Made Solar Prize, the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) program, the Technology Commercialization Fund, and SETO's Incubator Program.