National Laboratory Research

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For decades, the Energy Department’s 17 national laboratories have served as leading institutions for scientific innovation, tackling the world’s biggest scientific challenges. The Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) partners with the national labs and its researchers to develop innovations that lower the costs of solar energy. Using world-class facilities, researchers address complex questions about the performance and cost of solar energy technologies, translating basic science to innovation. 
Today, 40-50 percent of SETO’s funding is awarded to national labs through funding opportunity announcements, multi-year funding programs specially designed for national labs, and collaborative research projects with industry stakeholders and other offices and initiatives in the Energy Department. All projects must meet agreed-upon objectives, deliver on milestones, and yield results relevant to the office’s current research priorities.

Lab Calls

The office periodically issues competitive solicitations only for national laboratories seeking multi-year funding on a particular topic or theme. Similar to the funding opportunity announcements open to the public, national laboratories submit proposals that are then evaluated and selected by technical staff in the Energy Department to make sure projects align with the office’s research priorities.

Funding ProgramYear AnnouncedAmount Awarded
Resilient Distribution Systems Lab Call 2017$10M
Grid Modernization Initiative Lab Call2016$10M
SunShot National Laboratory Multiyear Partnership (SuNLaMP)2015$110M


Programs and Initiatives

SETO funds programs, collaborative initiatives, and prize competitions at the national labs, enabling the labs to bring together diverse partners and connect them with the resources of the national labs. Selected for their expertise and for their ability to provide core support for research programs and testing facilities, national labs bolster the Energy Department’s technical capabilities while also providing impartial foundational analysis. SETO’s funding enables the labs to provide expert information to a broad set of stakeholders, helping to explore the potential commercial relevance of solar technologies and address the non-hardware costs and deployment barriers of going solar. 

Funding ProgramYear AnnouncedAmount Awarded
Generation 3 Concentrating Solar Power Systems (Gen3CSP)2018$10M
American-Made Challenges: Solar Prize2018$3M
Public Utility Commission Analytical Support2017$1.5M
Solar Energy Innovation Network2017$11M
Durable Module Materials (DuraMat) National Laboratory Consortium2016$30M
Small Business Voucher Pilot2016-2017$1M
Technology Commercialization Fund2016-2017$2M
Regional Test Center program2012$26M 
Solar Energy Research for India and the U.S. (SERIIUS)2012$6.25M

Research Projects at the National Laboratories

SETO funding also enables the national labs to conduct informative analysis on solar energy technologies and the solar industry, using bottom-up, techno-economic cost modeling to provide important industry benchmarks. National lab researchers and industry partners also work together to conduct feasibility tests that mimic the real-world performance of solar technologies in the field, helping to de-risk solar technologies.

National Lab Success Stories

NREL, California Independent System Operator, and First Solar Demonstrate Essential Reliability Services with Utility-Scale Solar
NREL, California Independent System Operator, and First Solar Demonstrate Essential Reliability Services with Utility-Scale Solar
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EERE Success Story—SunShot-funded Advanced Inverter Testing Enables 2,500 Solar Energy Systems to Connect to Hawaii’s Electric Grid
Thanks to a SunShot collaboration at the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in December 2015 Hawaiian Electric anno...
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EERE Success Story-NREL Partners with Google in Little Box Challenge
EERE Success Story-NREL Partners with Google in Little Box Challenge
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EERE Success Story—Real Estate Professionals Embrace Solar Power
As solar energy’s popularity continues to grow among homeowners, it’s changing the way people buy and sell homes.
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EERE Success Story—International PV Manufacturing Standards Improve Investor Confidence

SunShot funding is enabling researchers from the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to develop a solution for...

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