SETO Research Area: Manufacturing and Competitiveness

The Small Business Vouchers (SBV) Pilot program is administered by The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Manufacturing and Competitiveness team to give small businesses access to technical assistance from national labs. This assistance helps companies overcome critical technology and commercialization challenges to help bring the next generation of clean energy technologies, including solar, to market. The Solar Energy Technologies Office funds vouchers for solar projects under the SBV pilot, which are valued between $50,000 and $300,000 each.


The SBV Pilot seeks to help small business overcome challenges with prototyping, materials characterization, high-performance computations, modeling and simulations, and validation of technology performance, among others. Vouchers are awarded on a competitive basis. Small businesses operating in the clean energy sector can request assistance from a national lab, and if accepted, a voucher is issued. The voucher acts as a coupon and allows the applicant to access a unique skill or facility at a lab to bring clean energy technologies to market. Assistance from labs will vary depending on lab capabilities and the small business needs related to specific products and services. 


The SBV Pilot fosters a strong partnership between the labs and clean tech small businesses. While small businesses receive access to state-of-the-art facilities and experts, the national labs broaden their service to private-sector technological development, supporting small business development, job creation, and American competitiveness.

Solar Awardees

Folsom Labs, Inc.
Project Name: HelioScope Energy Performance Modeling Validation
Location: San Francisco, CA
SunShot Award Amount: $56,000
Partner Laboratory: National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Project Summary: This project will assist Folsom Labs with the validation of its existing HelioScope technology, a modeling software that helps design solar projects. Using NREL's analysis and comparisons of similar existing projects, this project aims to provide municipalities and financial institutions with the confidence to adopt this model over other, more costly and time-consuming processes.

Sundog Solar Technology
Project Name: Accelerated Exposure Testing of Sundog Solar Technologies
Location: Arvada, CO
SunShot Award Amount: $50,000
Partner Laboratory: National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Project Summary: This project will aid in the development of Sundog Solar’s advanced reflector technology. Sundog will test the weatherization design of its protective coating materials for solar reflectors on NREL’s Ultra Accelerated Weathering System, which will move the technology closer to commercialization.

Arable Labs, Inc.
Project Name: Low-cost Sensor for Solar Resource Assessment and Microclimate Monitoring
Location: Princeton, NJ
SunShot Award Amount: $140,000
Partner Laboratory: National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Project Summary: This project will help Arable Labs to refine its Pulsepod technology, a low-cost remote sensor package that includes fast-response solar irradiance detection. NREL’s calibration facility will perform spectral and broadband calibration of the Arable Labs system in outdoor conditions, develop correction methodologies, and assist Arable Labs in publishing the results. This technology has the potential to increase solar deployment and improve the operations of photovoltaic and concentrating solar power plants through rapid solar resource assessment at reduced costs.

Ceramic Tubular Products
Project Name: Testing High Temperature, High Efficiency SiC Receiver Tubes for Centralized Solar Power Plants
Location: Lynchburg, VA
SunShot Award Amount: $160,000
Partner Laboratory: Sandia National Laboratory
Project Summary: This project will allow Ceramic Tubular Products to chemically, mechanically, and thermally test its silicon carbide composite tubing, which was developed for the nuclear industry, at the National Solar Thermal Test Facility for use in concentrating solar power (CSP) plants. The intent is to develop high-efficiency, low-emissivity receiver tubes to create a receiver that can operate at temperatures up to 800 degrees Celsius. This will enable future CSP plants to operate at higher temperatures and efficiencies.

Terrafore Technologies LLC
Project Name: Prototype Testing of an Encapsulated Thermal Energy Storage for CSP
Location: Minneapolis, MN
SunShot Award Amount: $170,000
Partner Laboratory: Argonne National Laboratory
Project Summary: This project will allow Terrafore to improve its innovative method of storing high-temperature thermal energy using phase change of inorganic salts inside ceramic capsules contained in a single tank. Using Argonne’s expertise in high-temperature technologies, the performance and reliability of the technology will be tested with the goal of developing a more efficient and robust prototype for CSP plants. This will enable more efficient, compact energy storage at high temperatures for distributed CSP plants.

Hyperlight Energy
Project Name: TBD
Location: La Jolla, CA
SunShot Award Amount: $75,000
Partner Laboratory: National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Project Summary: This project will use lab assistance for thermal modeling, assessment, and evaluation to help the company develop thermal battery storage options for use in solar thermal and geothermal hybrid power plants. Hyperlight Energy lacks the system analysis capabilities to evaluate the value of thermal storage in a geothermal/solar hybrid application. The lab voucher will allow for multiple thermal storage options to be tested.

Nishati Inc.
Project Name: Non-Reflective Solar Panels for Solar Arrays in Glint/Glare Sensitive Locations
Location: McLean, VA
SunShot Award Amount: $129,000
Partner Laboratory: Sandia National Laboratories
Project Summary: Over 120 gigawatts of solar energy potential exists on lands at or near public airports, small private airfields, and military airfields and training areas in the United States. A barrier to full and efficient implementation of photovoltaic (PV) arrays on these lands is the risk of visual impairment to aircrew or tower personnel caused by glint or glare. Nishati Inc. is combining proven materials and design elements with new solar panel assembly techniques to produce a non-reflective commercial PV panel. The company will use Sandia National Laboratories’ specialized equipment and methods for PV module optical characterization and performance testing to will quantify reflectivity characteristics and low-reflectivity performance benefits, which will aid in understanding materials and methods to further optimize modules.

Renewable Power Conversion, Inc.
Project Name: Testing and Validating a Novel Solar Power Inverter for Micro and Macro Scales
Location: San Luis Obispo, CA
SunShot Award Amount: $275,000
Partner Laboratory: Sandia National Laboratories
Project Summary: Renewable Power Conversion (RPC) is developing a modular inverter designed for solar photovoltaic system applications that range from 20 kW to 20 MW. Because inverters affect the overall efficiency and cost of solar power systems, RPC wants to address emerging grid support requirements and plan for corresponding certification tests for its inverter, which it believes could become widely used because of its technological advantages and lower costs. This project will utilize Sandia National Laboratories’ experts and facilities to subject the technology to third-party testing and validation, which will help RPC position the inverter as a reliable and cost-effective product in the marketplace.

Skysun, LLC
Project Name: Improving Solar Energy Mirror Array Performance under Windy Conditions
Location: Bay Village, OH
SunShot Award Amount: $275,000
Partner Laboratory: Sandia National Laboratories
Project Summary: Skysun, LLC is developing a solar collector that relies on an array of carefully arranged mirrors, referred to as “ganged heliostats,” that use an optical method to eliminate the astigmatism that commonly occurs in high-incidence solar thermal systems. The collector has the potential to drastically reduce both component and installation costs. However, the company faces challenges modeling its technology with high-fidelity and evaluating the performance of its prototype system. This project will rely on Sandia National Laboratories’ advanced modeling capabilities to better understand and refine the system.

Learn more about SETO's other Manufacturing and Competitiveness funding programs.