SETO FY2019 – Innovations in Manufacturing: Hardware Incubator

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The Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2019 (SETO FY2019) funding program supports projects that will improve the affordability, reliability, and performance of solar technologies on the national grid. This program funds projects that advance early-stage photovoltaic, concentrating solar-thermal power, and systems integration technologies, and reduce the non-hardware costs associated with installing solar energy systems.

On November 6, 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy announced it would provide $128 million in funding for 75 projects in this program. Seven of these projects will focus on innovations in manufacturing.

Approach

Innovations-in-manufacturing projects are early-stage product ideas that can lower solar costs, rapidly achieve commercialization, and strengthen U.S. solar manufacturing. These projects are by for-profit entities that aim to attract investors so that the project is self-supporting at the end of the award period. 

Objectives

Projects in this funding program are focused on the research and development of robust prototypes that will be able to prove the critical functions of the final products and attract private-sector investment. These projects will bolster innovation across the U.S and work toward the SETO 2030 cost targets.

Selectees

– Award and cost share amounts are subject to change pending negotiations –

BLUEDOT PHOTONICS

Project Name: Single-Source Vapor Deposition Equipment for High-Throughput Manufacturing of Thin-Film Perovskite Solar Absorbers
Location: Kirkland, WA
DOE Award Amount: $1 million 
Cost Share: $300,000 
Project Summary: This project team will develop modular, single-source vapor deposition (SSVD) hardware to enable high-throughput processing and manufacturing of thin-film perovskite solar absorbers. SSVD has the potential to be a rapid, cost-effective technique in which powder is turned directly to vapor and coated onto a substrate, the base of a solar cell. The team will design, build, and test a manufacturing platform that will improve the coating’s uniformity on the cell, as well as its optical and electronic quality. This work will enable the next generation of solar manufacturing equipment for thin-film solar cell technology.

HALO INDUSTRIES

Project Name: Advanced Silicon Carbide Wafer Manufacturing for Low-Cost, High-Efficiency Power Electronics in Solar Applications
Location: San Mateo, CA 
DOE Award Amount: $1 million
Cost Share: $300,000 
Project Summary: This project will deliver a technology that mechanically fractures wafers off blocks of silicon carbide without wasting material. These wafers can be processed into power electronics devices that can be used in solar applications. Conventionally, the wafers are sawed off the blocks, which is a slow process in which the sawing wastes some material. This new technology could be faster and, if so, could reduce the cost of wafers due to higher throughput and reduced material loss.

OSAZDA ENERGY

Project Name: Toward Commercialization of Low-Cost, Crack-Tolerant, Screen-Printable Metallization by Full-Size Module Testing and Field Characterization
Location: Albuquerque, NM 
DOE Award Amount: $1 million
Cost Share: $300,000 
Project Summary: This project will develop a cost-effective metal paste that strengthens the metal connections in solar cells, improving their resistance to fracture, and minimizes cracks that result from degradation and handling. This will increase the long-term durability of the cells. The team will measure and compare crack tolerance with this paste compared with conventional metallization paste, and work with several partners, including a group at Sandia National Laboratories, to test the modules in the field.

SCION PLASMA

Project Name: Developing a Single Beam Ion Source Technology for Efficient Manufacturing of Transparent Conductive Thin Films
Location: East Lansing, MI
DOE Award Amount: $1 million
Cost Share: $300,000 
Project Summary: This project will develop a tool that rapidly deposits transparent conductive oxide onto heterojunction silicon with intrinsic thin layer (HIT) solar cells, improving their performance. HIT cells are more efficient than other device structures but require a transparent conductive oxide. However, these oxides are costly and difficult to deposit quickly without altering the structure of the cell and lowering its efficiency. This technology will increase the oxide deposition rate, which will increase the manufacturing rate of these cells while reducing the cost, thereby increasing their market value.

SPAN.IO

Project Name: Advanced Distributed Grid Infrastructure
Location: San Francisco, CA 
DOE Award Amount: $1 million 
Cost Share: $1 million 
Project Summary: This project will develop hardware for solar-plus-storage systems that will integrate a hybrid inverter into a novel breaker panel. This will reduce the cost and complexity of adopting distributed energy resources like solar by reducing installation time and material costs. This system will be used in newly built homes and retrofitted ones. It will give homeowners the ability to monitor and control both their loads and generation and also improve the interface between homes and grid operators.   

SWIFT COAT

Project Name: Reducing Module Soiling with Scalable and Robust Photocatalytic Coatings
Location: Peoria, AZ
DOE Award Amount: $1 million 
Cost Share: $300,000 
Project Summary: The project will make and scale multilayer, anti-reflective and anti-soiling coatings for solar glass. These coatings will be deposited by a technique that sprays dry nanoparticles. The coatings have the potential to increase annual energy yield by reducing the loss of energy output that results when light gets reflected or when dirt lands on the modules. They will also reduce operation and maintenance costs because the modules won’t require as much cleaning. The team will perform outdoor testing in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

TERABASE ENERGY

Project Name: Field Factory for Cost Reduction and Deployment Acceleration of PV Power Plants
Location: Berkeley, CA 
DOE Award Amount: $1 million
Cost Share: $500,000 
Project Summary: This project team will create a new field factory facility that delivers PV power plants and reduces soft costs. The team will design and field-test key subsystems of this approach to project construction and then conduct an integrated field demonstration. They will validate the cost, time, and levelized cost of energy targets that underpin the benefits of this facility and prepare the technology for broader commercialization within the industry. The goal is to enable better process control, lower costs, enhanced safety, and faster installation rates.

Learn more about the SETO FY2019 funding program and the projects selected for the photovoltaics, concentrating solar-thermal power, systems integration, and balance of systems soft cost reduction topics.

Learn more about the solar office’s other innovations in manufacturing awards.