Solar Topics in Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer

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Solar SBIR STTR Graphic

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are competitive funding opportunities that encourage U.S.-based small businesses to engage in high-risk, innovative research and technology development with the potential for future commercialization. The program is managed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science and awards projects in technology areas across the entire department. It is part of the larger SBIR program across the federal government, which is administered by the Small Business Administration.

In the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO), funding is awarded to companies that are working to advance the affordability, reliability, and performance of solar technologies on to the grid. Funded projects address a wide variety of solar energy topics such as photovoltaics, grid integration, solar plus energy storage, and community solar, among others. See a full list of projects under the Awardees section below.

Learn more about the solar topics in the FY 2019 Phase 1 Release 2 SBIR/STTR funding opportunity

Approach

The SBIR and STTR programs take a phased approach with three funding levels: feasibility study and proof-of-concept development (Phase I), prototype development (Phase II), and commercialization (Phase III). Small businesses that apply for SBIR/STTR funding are expected to address the commercialization challenges of their technology and ensure that it is a profitable business opportunity. DOE performs follow-up surveys to track commercialization outcomes of all SBIR/STTR awards.

Small businesses are the prime recipients both for SBIR and STTR awards. However, there are few differences between the two programs:

  1. Under an SBIR award, the principal investigator is employed by the small business, which conducts the majority of the research and development tasks.
  2. Under an STTR award, the company must collaborate with a nonprofit research institution, like a national laboratory. The principal investigator can be employed by the small business or the research institution, and a minimum of 30% of the research and development tasks have to be conducted by the research institution. Researchers can use these awards to transfer a research project into a new company. 

SETO may also announce one or more Technology Transfer Opportunities (TTO)—a unique subtopic designed to transfer a specific development patented by a DOE national laboratory or university to a small business for commercialization. Only one small business can be awarded for each TTO. In addition to the SBIR/STTR funding, the awardee receives a six-month, non-exclusive licensing agreement for that patent, with the option to continue the licensing agreement upon negotiation with the research institution owning the patent.

Objectives

Bringing new technologies from conceptualization to the prototype stage, and then into the market has been proven to be challenging, especially in the solar sector. Entrepreneurs developing new hardware or software technologies, or innovating the solar manufacturing processes, face high risks and have difficulties raising the funding needed to fully mature their ideas. The SBIR and STTR programs aim to foster technology transfer to the private sector, support and encourage participation by entrepreneurs, and stimulate innovation through cooperative research and development carried out between small businesses and research institutions.

Awardees

2018 Phase II

Tau Science Corporation (Hillsboro, OR)
Mobile In-Situ Imaging of Photovoltaic Modules
As photovoltaic solar modules are added to the electric grid in greater numbers, new inspection and qualification techniques are required to maintain reliable electricity generation. This project will develop a non-contact scanner that can operate in solar fields at night and detect various failure and degradation modes of solar modules.

LM Group Holdings (Lake Forest, CA)
Novel Corrosion and Erosion Protective Amorphous Alloy Coatings
This project will evaluate and apply amorphous alloy coatings to molten salt system components, such as impellers, sealants, pipes, and tanks, to enable operation at temperatures above 700° Celsius. Amorphous metals combine ultra-high strength, high hardness, and ductility—the ability to stretch—into a single material. In addition, they are more resistant to corrosion compared to conventional metals. The amorphous alloy coatings will be applied to molten salt system components using a high-velocity oxygen fuel coating technique. This novel approach will improve the overall properties of the manufactured components, helping to increase throughput in concentrating solar-thermal power systems.

Fracsun (Atascadero, CA)
Automatic Reference for Empirical Soiling
The accumulation of dirt on photovoltaic (PV) solar panels can negatively impact the overall performance of solar arrays. To address this issue, this project will develop and test prototypes of a device that can measure dirt accumulation and calculate the best schedule for cleaning the solar array. This project will enable system owners to balance the cost of module cleaning against the loss of solar generation due to soiling and determine the best time to clean the modules, minimizing financial losses, and optimize the frequency of cleaning. As a result, this can lower a PV system’s levelized cost of electricity and improve the system’s profitability.

Sporian Microsystems (Lafayette, CO)
High-Temperature, Raman-Spectroscopy-Based, Inline, Molten Salt Composition Monitoring System for Concentrating Solar Power Systems
In-situ, real-time, and online monitoring of molten salt composition and chemistry could enable the next generation of concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) plants to achieve maximum thermal performance and reduce material damage due to corrosion. This project will develop and test a lab-scale molten salt heat transfer fluid composition and contaminant monitoring system. This project will develop and test fluid that will be developed based on Raman spectroscopy, a precise method used to identify contaminants in the molten salt, and able to withstand high temperatures. Altogether, the proposed system will have the potential to improve the efficiency, reliability, and economic viability of CSP systems.

2018 Phase I

Acme Express (Cleveland, OH)
Racking System for Commercial Solar Arrays
Current solar panel racking systems have several components and require pre-ordering, transporting, inventorying, and labor-intensive deployment. This team will develop an automated racking system that produces the rack from raw material on-demand and on-site during an automated installation process. It is expected to reduce the cost of commercial, flat-roof solar installations by approximately nine percent.

BEM Controls (Falls Church, VA)
A Blockchain-Enabled Peer-to-Peer Energy Trading Platform for Managing Complex Exchange of Kilowatt-Hours and Negawatts
This project will develop a blockchain-enabled open architecture platform that will allow commercial and industrial buildings to buy and sell excess rooftop photovoltaic energy generation and energy consumption reduction known as “negative watts,” or “negawatts,” in a secure and reliable way.

Blake-Philips (Bowling Green, KY)
Smart-Meter-Based Peer-to-Peer Transactions for Solar Energy Prosumers
This project aims to develop a peer-to-peer transaction network built on a smart-meter-based peer-to-peer transaction network that uses existing, patented hardware. This new device will provide information to the utility about power usage and handle transactions between prosumers and consumers. It will also verify the identity of individuals entering these transactions, while maintaining the privacy of those identities from other network members.

ecoLong (Slingerlands, NY)
Advanced Peer-to-Peer Transactive Energy Platform with Predictive Optimization
The rise in distributed energy resources requires the development of new technologies that enable prosumers—consumers that produce their own energy—to transact directly with other energy users to help meet their energy needs. This project will use new technology to allow consumers, solar owners, and utilities to directly transact with each other in order to maximize economic and technological benefits. 

Fend (Falls Church, VA)
Low-Cost, Plug-and-Play Data Diodes for Solar Equipment Cybersecurity
Solar energy equipment is made by a small number of manufacturers, increasing the risk of economic disruption from a widespread, distributed cyberattack on industrial photovoltaic control systems. This project will develop the “Data Valve,” a low-cost, plug-and-play information transfer device that provides unhackable, physically enforced security with real-time equipment monitoring. This could prevent the large economic disruption a distributed cyberattack on industrial control systems would potentially cause.

Idaho Scientific (Boise, ID)
Secure Processor for Solar Generation and Distribution Equipment
The equipment used in the generation and distribution of the electric grid, especially since the increase of distributed solar generation, is vulnerable to cyberattacks. This project aims to prototype and test a processor design capable of mitigating the vast majority of cyber vulnerabilities in critical U.S. infrastructure.

Indiana Tool and Manufacturing Company (Plymouth, IN)
SolarChain Peer-to-Peer: A Blockchain-based Transaction Platform for Distributed Solar Energy Trading
This project will build a pseudo real-time blockchain-based distributed energy resource trading platform for decentralized participants, such as distributed solar generation, in the electricity market. The team will monitor market potential and analyze the feasibility of the proposed block-chain system.

InnoSys (Salt Lake City, UT)
Devices and Methods for De-Energizing a Photovoltaic System
Higher levels of safety are needed when there are physical disturbances to renewable energy sources like photovoltaics (PV). This project will explore the solutions and products needed to meet this demand, including a high-speed method to de-energize a PV system in the event of a fire or other disaster.

Intelli-Products (Asheville, NC)
Fully-Automated PV Array Assembly System
This project will develop a collection of three separate but interwoven photovoltaic (PV) automation and augmentation innovations aimed at reducing PV installation costs. These innovations include automated installation systems, automatic modeling of PV system wiring schemes, and combined structural and electrical connectors.

Intertie (Sausalito, CA)
Peer-to-Peer Transaction Software Platform that Maximizes Distributed Solar Value by Optimizing Power Flow between Storage, Electric Vehicles, Site, and Grid
The project will address problems related to the over-generation of solar and the grid constraints caused by fast charging electric vehicles. It will simultaneously integrate local solar photovoltaic systems and provide electric vehicle charging that is cost-effective, low-impact, and fast-charging.

Introspective Systems (Portland, ME)
A Fractal Graph Approach to Peer-to-Peer Energy Transactions
This project will develop a more reliable, secure, and resilient control system for the electric grid. This structure can maintain system flexibility at multiple grid scales, and allows consumers to both consume and produce solar electricity, while being compensated for the value they provide to others.

Operant Solar (Santa Rosa, CA)
Field Gateway Distributed Transaction Ledger for Utility-Scale Solar
Utility-scale solar photovoltaic plants are attractive targets for hackers from both private-sector actors and foreign governments. This project will use a next-generation blockchain solution to protect the U.S. electric grid from those potential situations.

Physical Optics Corporation (Torrance, CA)
Intelligent Solar Energy Devices Cybersecurity System
This project will develop a risk-based, intelligent intrusion detection solution capable of identifying and mitigating known and unknown cyberattacks on the smart grid for distributed solar resources and industrial control systems. It will help secure solar energy plants and future smart grid infrastructure to ensure access-control system integrity and non-repudiation.

Qcoefficient (Chicago, IL)
Peer-to-Peer Transactions with Demand Flexibility for Increasing Solar Utilization
As more renewable energy is added to the electric grid, ensuring a reliable and efficient grid becomes more challenging. This project will automate smart energy transactions and improve grid operations when more solar energy is connected to the grid.

Smart Information Flow Technologies (Minneapolis, MN)
SolarGuard
The electrical power grid is vulnerable to cyber-attack by means of malicious data injection (MDI), and its vulnerability is growing as more smart devices like solar energy systems are connected to the grid.  This project will research MDI detection strategies to prevent cyberattacks on solar energy systems through power grid models and machine learning.

Sunvapor (Livermore, CA)
Metrology-Assisted Robotic Mirror Alignment for Parabolic Trough Collectors
Parabolic trough solar collectors are well-suited to generating industrial steam, but their assembly has significant labor costs. This mobile, automated assembly method is derived from advanced aerospace techniques and will lower labor costs, improve safety and quality, and enable the assemblies to be easily transported to new project sites.

2017 Phase II

ProjectEconomics (Brooklyn, NY)
Middleware Oriented Community Solar Platform
Shared solar is the key to unlocking access to solar for households and businesses that can’t go solar because they are renters or don’t have adequate rooftops. ProjectEconomics is developing software to help utilities and other energy companies deliver shared solar programs efficiently at scale.

Extensible Energy (Lafayette, CA)
Solar Load Balancing Software
This project is developing modern software tools to assist electricity customers in commercial buildings by maximizing the use of distributed solar within the facility where the solar array is installed. The software will save customers money on their energy bills and will allow the electric grid to support a higher percentage of solar generation.

Nhu Energy (Tallahassee, FL)
Developing Optimal Control Technology for Distributed Energy Resources (DOCTdER)
Maximizing the value proposition for solar energy and other distributed energy resources to consumers requires a more integrated and coordinated approach to utilizing these resources on-site. This project builds on Nhu Energy’s Phase I project by adding an optimal control solution, including enhanced and industrial utility-grade features, to the DOCTdER tool and test it under a range of real use cases in preparation for commercialization.

2017 Phase I

LM Group Holdings (Lake Forest, CA)
Novel Corrosion and Erosion Protective Amorphous Alloys Coatings
This project is developing unique amorphous alloy coatings with high corrosion and erosion properties using HVOF techniques. This novel approach will increase concentrating solar power throughput and improve the overall properties of manufactured parts.

Sporian Microsystems (Lafayette, CO)
High Temperature, Raman Spectroscopy Based, Inline, Molten Salt Composition Monitoring System for Concentrating Solar Power Systems
This project is developing a novel, high temperature, in-line monitoring system to help next generation concentrating solar power plants to efficiently provide low-cost, clean, renewable energy.

Powdermet (Euclid, OH)
High Toughness Cermets for Molten Salt Pumps
Concentrated solar power electricity generation is able to achieve cost competitiveness when operating at temperatures higher than 700⁰C. However, this requires new materials to handle the high temperature and corrosive properties of the heat transfer fluid and thermal energy storage media. This project is developing metal matrix ceramic nanocomposites that allow for longer system life and lower cost pump components.

HiFunda (Salt Lake City, UT)
Development of Novel Alloys Identified by High-Throughput Computational Methods for Use in Concentrated Solar Power Components
This project is developing new alloy materials based on high-throughput computational analysis for use in high temperature corrosive applications such as concentrating solar power, nuclear reactors, turbines and aircraft components.

Applied Thermal Coatings (Chattanooga, TN)
Advanced Low Cost Intermetallic Coatings for Molten Salt Pump Impeller
This project is developing advanced low-cost intermetallic coatings to protect the molten salt pump impeller against corrosion and blade tip erosion in concentrating solar power systems.

Tau Science Corporation (Hillsboro, OR)
Mobile In-situ Imaging of Photovoltaic Modules
The nation’s electric grid depends upon the reliable generation of electricity, and as solar modules are added in greater numbers, they require unique inspection and qualification techniques. This project is developing a non-contact scanner that can operate at night in solar fields to detect various failure and degradation modes.

Advanced Power Electronics Corporation (Orlando, FL)
Predictive Module Degradation and Failure Identification Solution
This project is developing photovoltaic module diagnostics technology that can be integrated into existing solar power system components. The diagnostics system will greatly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of long-term solar system operation and maintenance.

Fracsun (Atascadero, CA)
Automatic Reference for Empirical Soiling
The accumulation of dirt on solar panels has drastic and measurable effects on the performance of solar arrays. This project is focused on developing and manufacturing a device that addresses soiling by measuring the dirt accumulation and calculating the best day to wash the solar array.

Battery Informatics (Poulsbo, WA)
Integration of Battery Modeling with Solar Building Energy Storage
This project is developing software that will improve the economics of using lithium ion batteries for energy storage in the context of energy management of buildings. The solution will allow customers to offer battery installations that will provide 10-20% more value than current solutions.

Leaptran (San Antonio, TX)
An Open Source Proactive Energy Management System (PEMS) for Integrated Control of Energy Storage and Solar Powered Buildings
This project is developing a control and communication software platform that enables the integrated control of battery energy storage on solar-powered buildings. The solution will be integrated into building energy management systems.

BlazeTech Corp (Woburn, MA)
Solar Building Energy Storage Management
The adoption of electrical energy storage technologies in power systems can play a vital role in improving grid stability and resiliency. Thus, developing a robust energy management software is crucial for a widespread deployment of energy storage systems along with distributed energy resources.

2016 Phase I

Nhu Energy (Tallahassee, FL)
Developing Optimal Control Technology for Distributed Energy Resources (DOCTdER)
The Nhu Energy team will develop breakthrough control technology to drastically improve the value proposition for distributed energy resources such as solar PV, storage, electric vehicles, and price-responsive load, to enable significant improvements to electric power system resiliency, economics, and environmental impact.

ProjectEconomics, Inc. (Brooklyn, NY)
Middleware Oriented Community Solar Platform
This project will develop a community solar software platform that will make it possible for more Americans who don’t have a suitable roof to join the solar revolution.

Extensible Energy, LLC (Lafayette, CA)
Solar Load Balancing Simulator 
This project will develop modern software tools to assist designers of building controls and energy storage systems to maximize the use of distributed solar within the facility where the solar is installed.

2015 Phase II

Brayton Energy, LLC (Hampton, NH)
Flexible All-metal Pipes and Pipe Couplings for High-Temperature Fluid Transport
Rotational pipe couplers for high-temperature molten salt are required to reduce the cost of renewable electricity generated by solar plants. This project will develop a flexible coupler made entirely out of metal. The coupler has a smooth internal shape, which prevents fluid from being trapped in convolutions such as those present in existing rotational couplers. It is optimized to be highly flexible while still able to withstand the pumping pressures required in typical molten salt plants. It will be able to move through 180 degrees of motion daily for the entire lifetime of a solar plant. Future applications may include additional fluids, such as supercritical carbon dioxide.

eIQ Energy, Inc. (San Jose, CA)
Solar Balance of System Cost Reduction
The eIQ Energy patented vBoost® technology takes the voltage off of the solar module and provides a 300-900 Vdc output. Since the technology can be integrated into the solar module, it will allow the customer to have a direct DC output from the module that will not require any additional power maximization, or Maximum Power Point Tracking (“MPPT”). This will allow a single product to drive either a central inverter or a DC load directly with no additional hardware. eIQ’s technology will offer an integrated solution to the market that will lower costs and installation times for PV systems.

Tau Science Corporation (Beaverton, OR)
Apparatus for Optimizing PV Solar Manufacturing Efficiency through Real-Time Process Feedback and Spectral Binning of Cells
Tau Science Corporation is developing light engine and detection electronics to extract spectral response metrics from a PV cell without the need to make electrical contact to the material stack. The technology revolutionizes PV characterization by bringing the most fundamental measure of a solar cell performance--spectral response-- to application areas that are impractical or unobtainable using existing techniques. Applications include inline monitoring of cells prior to metallization, accessing information from individual cells once they are assembled into PV solar modules without the need for light or electrical biasing, and monitoring of metallized cells without the breakage loss inherent to techniques requiring electrical contact.

Energy Sense Finance, LLC (Tampa, FL)
Developing Aggregated Data Sets to Standardize the Collateral Valuation Process Utilizing an Economic Pricing Model
Energy Sense Finance is developing solar valuation data sets to assist real estate appraisers, along with other professionals involved in the solar transaction process, in determining the asset value of both existing and proposed solar PV systems. The new approach recognizes that the lack of verifiable data is a current barrier to developing credible opinions of value for solar as an asset class. The solution utilizes data sets to better align current solar valuation methodologies with those used in traditional, low cost of capital lending markets. By removing barriers to credible valuation of solar systems, the “Ei Value™” web application can establish a verifiable solar asset value even before financing is issued and a system is installed.  This will benefit homeowners, real estate appraisers, realtors, lenders, insurance companies, green raters, credit rating agencies and third party owners among others by streamlining the solar valuation process and effectively opening up access to a lower cost of capital.

2015 Phase I

ClearGrid Innovations, Inc. (White Plains, NY)
Innovative Approaches to Lead Generation Using Novel Data-Sets
Generating leads for new business (“lead generation”) is one of the most important costs for residential solar marketers. It is currently poorly targeted and inefficient, due to suboptimal information about the probability that target households will adopt solar. ClearGrid Innovations and project partner Duke University are leveraging two complex data-sets – (1) the presence and visibility of nearby existing solar panels and (2) moves in electricity rates – to reduce the costs and increase the efficiency of lead generation.

Solar Retina, LLC (Boulder, CO)
Solar Retina: Crown-Sourcing “Behind-the-meter” Solar PV Data
The SolarRetina is a software platform that provides real-time intelligence of “behind-the-meter” solar PV generation on the distribution system.  Using crowd-sourced solar generation data from actual PV systems on the distribution grid, the SolarRetina provides superior distributed solar generation analysis.

Trevi Systems, Inc. (Petaluma, CA)
Desalination Driven by Steam-Generating Concentrating Solar Collector
Trevi Systems, Inc will help expand the country’s water resources by providing an extremely efficient desalination process, which can produce water that is priced competitively with conventional sources. The process will be driven by solar thermal energy and will reduce electricity use so that the water production does not rely on non-renewable energy.

Vertum Partners LP (Los Angeles, CA)
Integrated Predictive Systems for Solar Energy with Modeling, Post Processing and Machine Learning
With increased ability to cost-effectively tap solar resources at a community level, the energy market is changing from a one-way centralized network into a dynamic decentralized system where the energy consumers are now also energy producers. This means that predictive services are necessary to ensure optimum grid performance and to keep integration costs low. Vertum is developing advanced solar predictive tools that will allow utilities to project solar production in the face of fast-changing weather conditions. Project research is focused on building market-based designs that make solar energy resources in the United States more affordable and accessible for Americans. Within Phase 1 of this project, the company is creating distributed solar power analytics and predictive services for utilities.

2014 Phase II

Sinton Instruments (Boulder, CO)
Device-Physics-Accurate Cost-Effective Cell and Module Test Instruments 
Sinton Instruments is developing detailed characterization tools to improve next-generation PV cells and modules. The tools will characterize the electronic properties of cells and modules after manufacturing, enabling better process control and reliability testing by tracking fundamental semiconductor parameters within the module. By integrating detailed device physics into the test sequence, cell characteristics can be related back to incoming material, substrate doping, and carrier recombination measurements performed during manufacturing. Cell measurements can also be related forward to the module characterization and reliability testing. The project will help to lower the cost of PV by enabling detailed process control and optimization throughout the entire cell and module manufacturing process.

Brittmore Group, LLC (San Jose, CA)
Utility-Scale PV Cost Reduction by Automated Panel Installation System
Brittmore Group is applying industrial automation to large-scale photovoltaic (PV) power plant construction. Brittmore Group's automated panel installation system will remove panel assemblies from the shipping pallets and transfer them to the shuttles that deliver them to their mounting positions. The system will reduce costs by handling large, frameless modules safely, simplifying and centralizing material handling, reducing labor and materials, and decreasing construction time. The system will operate with the in-house developed ground mount rack.

Next Energy Technologies, Inc. (Santa Barbara, CA)
Reliability Improvement in Solution Processable Roll to Roll Photovoltaic Modules
Next Energy Technologies (NEXTs) soluble small molecule (SSM) organic photovoltaic (OPV) cells promises to lower the cost per watt of modules and also the balance of system costs below the goals of SunShot. NEXT’s SSM-OPVs can be coated as inks onto conventional plastic rolls in high yields using roll-to-roll technology and allowing for the production of lightweight, flexible, and extremely inexpensive solar cells. This project focuses on enhancing inherent device stability in order to increase product lifetime and reduce the cost of vapor barrier and packaging materials required for modules.

Sporian Microsystems, Inc. (Broomfield, CO)
Advanced Ceramic Materials and Packaging Technologies for Realizing Sensors for Concentrating Solar Power Systems 
Sporian is developing novel temperature, pressure, flow and level sensors to enhance the safety and efficiency of concentrated solar power (CSP) heat transfer and thermal energy storage. The sensors will improve the reliability, optimize the performance, and reduce the cost of existing and future CSP plants. Leveraging its existing high-temperature sensors and packaging technologies for fossil fuel applications, Sporian will work with CSP industry experts to develop small-sized, reliable, high-temperature,  and corrosion-resistant sensors. This effort includes materials experimental evaluation, design development, and prototype demonstration.

2014 Phase I

Brayton Energy, LLC (Hampton, NH)
Flexible All-metal Pipes and Pipe Couplings for High-Temperature Fluid Transport
High-temperature molten salt used in concentrated solar power plants require rotational pipe couplers to reduce the cost of renewable electricity generated by solar plants. This project will develop a flexible coupler made entirely out of metal. The coupler has a smooth internal shape, which prevents fluid from being trapped in convolutions such as those present in existing rotational couplers. It is optimized to be highly flexible while still able to withstand the pumping pressures required in typical molten salt plants and will be able to move through 180 degrees of motion daily for the entire lifetime of a solar plant. Future applications may include additional fluids, such as supercritical carbon dioxide.

eIQ Energy, LLC (San Jose, CA)
Labor Efficiencies through Hardware Innovation
The eIQ Energy patented vBoost® technology takes the voltage off of the solar module and provides a 300-900 Vdc output. Since the technology can be integrated into the solar module, it will allow the customer to have a direct DC output from the module that will not require any additional power maximization, or Maximum Power Point Tracking (“MPPT”). This will allow a single product to drive either a central inverter or a DC load directly with no additional hardware. eIQ’s technology will offer an integrated solution to the market that will lower costs and installation times for PV systems.

Energy Sense Finance, LLC (Punta Gorda, FL)
Developing Aggregated Data Sets to Standardize the Collateral Valuation Process Utilizing an Economic Pricing Model
Energy Sense Finance is developing solar valuation data sets to assist real estate appraisers, along with other professionals involved in the solar transaction process, in determining the asset value of both existing and proposed solar PV systems. The new approach recognizes that the lack of verifiable data is a current barrier to developing credible opinions of value for solar as an asset class. The solution utilizes data sets to better align current solar valuation methodologies with those used in traditional, low cost of capital lending markets. By removing barriers to credible valuation of solar systems, the “Ei Value™” web application can establish a verifiable solar asset value even before financing is issued and a system is installed.  This will benefit homeowners, real estate appraisers, realtors, lenders, insurance companies, green raters, credit rating agencies and third party owners among others by streamlining the solar valuation process and effectively opening up access to a lower cost of capital.

2013 Phase II

MicroXact, Inc. (Blacksburg, VA)
-- This project is inactive --
Real-Time Photovoltaic Manufacturing Diagnostic System
MicroXact is developing a high-throughput, in-line photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing diagnostic system that provides data on the spatial uniformity of thickness, refractive indices, and film stress of the thin films comprising the solar cell as it is processed reel-to-reel. This information has the potential to detect a wide variety of processing errors, including but not limited to thickness and composition inhomogeneity in any layer-comprising PV device, non-uniform scribing, thin-film stress, cracking, and layer separation.

Tau Science Corporation (Beaverton, OR)
-- This project is inactive --
Apparatus for Optimizing PV Solar Manufacturing Efficiency through Real-Time Process Feedback and Spectral Binning of Cells
Tau Science Corporation is developing light engine and detection electronics to extract spectral response metrics from a PV cell without the need to make electrical contact to the material stack. The technology revolutionizes PV characterization by bringing the most fundamental measure of a solar cell performance--spectral response-- to application areas that are impractical or unobtainable using existing techniques. Applications include inline monitoring of cells prior to metallization, accessing information from individual cells once they are assembled into PV solar modules without the need for light or electrical biasing, and monitoring of metallized cells without the breakage loss inherent to techniques requiring electrical contact.

2013 Phase I, Release 2

Central Technological Corporation (Altamonte Springs, FL)
Real-Time POD-CFD Wind-Load Calculator for PV Systems
Central Technological Corporation is developing a real-time wind load calculator to improve the installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Currently, wind loading calculations for structures are performed according to the American Society of Civil Engineers 7 Standard, which does not have provisions to handle characteristics relevant to most rooftop PV systems. The new approach, based on the proper orthogonal decomposition (POD) method, will use a grid-converged 3D computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis and determine the loads resulting from wind-induced drag and lift forces on PV mounting systems. By enabling accurate, preliminary assessments of wind loads, the tool will help to identify optimal mounting solutions, thereby reducing the installation costs of PV systems.

Direct Solar, LLC (Fort Collins, CO)
Novel Module Architecture Development for Increased Reliability and Reduced Costs
Direct Solar has developed a new solar PV module design and technology to increase the reliability of PV modules. The patent-pending architecture uses a specialized, two-part edge seal incorporating high strength, UV-tolerant silicone, and low-moisture vapor transmission polymers in conjunction with a separate desiccant material. The modules are fabricated without lamination, vacuum pressing, or module heating and the encapsulation sealants are dispensed through hot melt injection. By streamlining the manufacturing process, the technology will reduce the costs of solar by increasing thin-film PV reliability.

Janoch Engineering, LLC (Westford, MA)
In-Line LBIC
Janoch Engineering is applying a light- or laser-beam induced current (LBIC) technology to measure problematic defects and performance variations in solar PV cells and modules. By obtaining detailed images of the optoelectronic performance of PV devices, the technique locates defects and measures diffusion length, shunt resistance, surface recombination, and other properties. By analyzing multiple measures of process variability in real time, the tool will increase reduce manufacturing costs and increase module efficiency.

Sinton Instruments (Boulder, CO)
Device-Physics-Accurate Cost-Effective Cell and Module Test Instruments
Sinton Instruments is developing detailed characterization tools to improve next-generation PV cell and module testers. The tools will characterize the electronic properties of cells and modules after manufacturing, enabling better process control and reliability testing by tracking fundamental semiconductor parameters within the module. By integrating detailed device physics into the test sequence, the tested cell characteristics can be related back to incoming material, substrate doping, and carrier recombination measurements performed during manufacturing, and also related forward to the module characterization and reliability testing. The project will help to lower the cost of PV by enabling detailed process control and optimization throughout the entire cell and module manufacturing process.

Terrajoule Corporation (Redwood City, CA)
-- This project is inactive --
Terrajoule Modular Distributed CSP with Storage System Using Water/Steam Phase Change for Energy Storage and Generation
Terrajoule is designing and analyzing three closely related system improvements for a modular distributed concentrating solar power (CSP) system with storage. The system will be demonstrated at the 100-kW scale with 6 to 14 hours of thermal electric storage using water/steam phase change for energy storage and generation. The distributed CSP with storage system will integrate next-generation heliostats, tower, receiver, and engine modules such that the overall thermal efficiency of the Distributed CSP with Storage system exceeds 38%, including a full 24-hour energy storage charge/discharge cycle. The project aims to exceed the SunShot Initiative's 2020 cost and performance goals by 2017 by providing a low-cost, long life, abundant, and nontoxic material design, and rapid response to changing demands, high efficiency under variable loads, and components all manufactured in the United States.

Tiax, LLC (Lexington, MA)
Software Tool for Code-Compliant Assessment of Wind Loads on Solar Photovoltaic Panels
Currently, the proper installation of PV panels requires laborious design calculations to determine a system's ability to withstand wind loads. Because these calculations require expertise in the applicable codes and are subject to judgment, they are prone to human errors. Tiax is developing an application to automate the calculation of wind loads and provide recommendations for the appropriate PV mounting systems. The application will feature an accessible GUI-enabled software platform that helps installers easily investigate panel configuration options, the required number of panels, and optimal mounting schemes, thereby increasing the safety of PV arrays, and reducing the costs of installing PV systems.

2012 Phase II

 Xunlight 26 Solar, LLC (Toledo, OH)
-- This project is inactive --
Transparent, Flexible CdTe Modules for High-Efficiency Tandem PV
This project implemented new approaches developed in Phase I for transparent back contacts for flexible, thin-film CdTe cells. The goal was to develop a top-cell structure for tandem modules to match a low-bandgap bottom cell such as CIGS or Si, and to optimize a stand-alone, transparent top cell with less than 500 nm of CdTe for use in window PV applications. Back-contact structures based on single-wall carbon nanotubes and on multilayer metals were optimized in collaboration with the University of Toledo.

2012 Phase I, Release 3.2

-- These projects are inactive --

Black Hills Nanosystems Corporation (Rapid City, SD)
Optimal Multijunction Solar Cells for CPV under Realistic Conditions
This project aims to provide a pathway for terrestrial concentrated photovoltaics (CPV) (500 to 700 Suns) multijunction solar cells that would maintain extremely high efficiencies at realistic operating temperatures. The project adapted an integration approach from microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) to III-V materials grown lattice-matched to gallium arsenide substrates. The efficiency advantages were found to be substantially due to the 37% smaller temperature coefficient of efficiency for the proposed CPV cell.

Cool Earth Solar, Inc. (Livermore, CA)
Research and Development of an Innovative Inflated Medium Concentrating PV Module for Achieving an Installed PV Module Cost of $0.50/W before 2020
Cool Earth Solar (CES) is developing a Medium Concentrating Photovoltaic (MCPV) system that can achieve a levelized cost of energy of less than 6 cents per kilowatt-hour. This effort focuses on the development, integration, and performance testing of a sub-scale MCPV module capable of concentrating the sun 15 to 25 times. The module uses high-efficiency solar cells that cost far less than multijunction solar cells. The goal was to demonstrate the feasibility of 22.5% or greater module efficiency using CES’ unique concentrating inflated film optic.

Hyper-Therm High-Temperature Composites, Inc. (Huntington Beach, CA)
Ceramic Matrix Composites for Concentrating Solar Power Solar Receivers
Continuous fiber-reinforced ceramics are an emerging class of materials that offer considerable potential for increasing the operating temperatures of central receiver concentrated solar power (CSP) plants. The incorporation of high strength, relatively high modulus ceramic fiber reinforcement within a ceramic matrix produces a material with significantly greater toughness, flaw insensitivity, and strain capability than a monolith, while maintaining high-temperature refractory capabilities. Silicon carbide fiber-reinforced silicon carbide (SiC/SiC) offers the necessary high-temperature strength and oxidation resistance, and has been identified as a suitable candidate material for the high-flux portion of the solar receiver. This effort encompassed the design of a pressurized ceramic matrix composite (CMC) tubular solar receiver; the demonstrated fabrication of receiver prototypes and material for coupon-level materials testing; and the evaluation of thermal and mechanical materials properties, as well as the structural and thermal performance of the solar receiver prototypes.

Next Energy Technologies, Inc. (Santa Barbara, CA)
Reliability Improvement in Solution Processable Roll to Roll Photovoltaic Modules
Next Energy Technologies (NEXTs) soluble small molecule (SSM) organic photovoltaic (OPV) cells promises to lower the cost per watt of modules and also the balance of system costs below the goals of SunShot. NEXT’s SSM-OPVs can be coated as inks onto conventional plastic rolls in high yields using roll-to-roll technology and allowing for the production of lightweight, flexible, and extremely inexpensive solar cells. This project focuses on enhancing inherent device stability in order to increase product lifetime and reduce the cost of vapor barrier and packaging materials required for modules.

United Silicon Carbide, Inc. (Middlesex, NJ)
15 kV GTO Thyristor Module for Use in Small, Highly Efficient Current Source Inverters Utilizing AC-Link™ Technology
United Silicon Carbide and Princeton Power Systems fabricated a switch module that is rated at 15 kV, thus usable for switching voltages up to ~11 kV. Adopting a bipolar p-type SiC-GTO approach, coupled with the AC-link™ topology, allows the device to switch in the medium voltage range while maintaining low losses and a high switching speed (~10 KHz). Switching at medium voltages allows the current to be reduced drastically by a factor of ~10, thus impacting every other component in the inverter. The module provides a significantly smaller, more efficient and lower cost solution for converters/inverters for utility scale smart grid and energy management applications.

2012 Phase I, Release 3

-- These projects are inactive --

Brittmore Group, LLC (San Jose, CA)
Utility-Scale PV Cost Reduction through an Automated Panel Installation System
Brittmore Group is applying industrial automation to large-scale photovoltaic (PV) power plant construction. Brittmore's automated panel installation system will remove panel assemblies from the shipping pallets and transfer them to the shuttles that deliver them to their mounting positions. The system will reduce costs by handling large, frameless modules safely, simplifying and centralizing material handling, reducing labor and materials, and decreasing construction time. The system will operate with the in-house developed ground mount rack.

Cool Earth Solar, Inc. (Livermore, CA)
Research and Development of an Innovative Inflated High Concentrating PV Module for Achieving an Installed PV Module Cost of $0.50/W Before 2020
Cool Earth Solar (CES) is developing a concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) system that uses inflated polymer film primary optics to achieve the SunShot Initiative's cost reduction and performance improvement goals. This project will demonstrate a module efficiency of 30% on integrated systems, including 2-D concentrating (point focus) inflated primary optic films, coupled with high-efficiency multi-junction cells. The results will demonstrate the feasibility of a high-efficiency, low-cost solar power system that uses minimal materials and increases lifetime reliability.

Glint Photonics, Inc. (Menlo Park, CA)
Wide Angle Self-Tracking Concentrator Photovoltaics
Glint Photonics is developing a novel high-concentration PV module that eliminates the need for costly precision mechanical trackers by enabling automatic solar tracking within the concentrator itself. Novel optical designs embed optical materials that respond to sunlight within the concentrator, allowing the proposed concentrator to track the sun over a wide range of incidence angles. This could reduce cost by enabling the concentrating PV modules to be mounted on rooftops, other stationary configurations, or on low-cost single-axis trackers.

Ideal Power Converters, Inc. (Spicewood, TX)
3-Port PV and Battery Converter Improves Cost and Efficiency of Combined PV/Battery Systems
Integrating low-cost battery storage with intermittent solar PV generation plants is the goal of high-penetration PV, but when PV and battery systems are used together, the converter-related balance-of-system (BOS) costs and efficiency losses can be doubled. This is because multiple power converters and multiple power converter steps are required. Ideal Power Converters is developing and demonstrating a three-Port PV & battery converter concept to reduce converter losses, thereby improving system efficiency and reducing installation and converter costs for hybrid systems that integrate Solar PV with battery storage.

Inspired Light, LLC (Corvallis, OR)
Self-Configuring Solar Tracking System
Inspired Light will develop and demonstrate a self-configuring solar tracking mechanism and controller that will enable low-profile, self-contained tracking assemblies to be deployed quickly. The tracker will be controlled by a unique motion controller, borrowed from consumer electronics design, to enable reductions in size, weight, hardware cost, and installation time. When Inspired Light's technology is integrated with high-efficiency, low-cost PV modules developed in-house, the result will be a comprehensive low-cost and self-contained system that can be rapidly deployed in ground-mount or rooftop applications.

SkyFuel, Inc. (Arvada, CO)
Development of a Low-Cost Ultra Specular Advanced Polymer Film Solar Reflector
Skyfuel is developing a high-performance polymer film reflector with a solar-weighted hemispherical reflectance (SWHR) > 95%, improved reflector specularity with a beam spread ≤ 1 mrad, a service lifetime of 30+ years, and a cost ≤ $5.50/m2. Skyfuel will determine the feasibility of the proposed reflector by demonstrating a polymer-based front surface reflector that has the required mechanical stability and layer-to-layer adhesion, ~1% increase in SWHR, compared with existing state-of-the-art polymer film reflector products, and long-term outdoor weatherability.

Sporian Microsystems, Inc. (Lafayette, CO)
Advanced Ceramic Materials and Packaging Technologies for Realizing Sensors for Concentrating Solar Power Systems
Sporian is developing novel temperature, pressure, flow and level sensors to enhance the safety and efficiency of CSP heat transfer and thermal energy storage. The sensors will improve the reliability, optimize the performance, and reduce the cost of existing and future CSP plants. Leveraging its existing high-temperature sensors and packaging technologies for fossil fuel applications, Sporian will work with CSP industry experts to develop small size, highly reliable, high-temperature, operable, and corrosion-resistant sensors. This effort includes materials experimental evaluation, design development, and prototype demonstration.

2012 Phase I

-- These projects are inactive --

MicroXact Inc. (Christiansburg, VA)
Real-Time Photovoltaic Manufacturing Diagnostic System
MicroXact is developing a high-throughput, in-line photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing diagnostic system that provides data on the spatial uniformity of thickness, refractive indices, and film stress of the thin films comprising the solar cell as it is processed reel-to-reel. This information has the potential to detect a wide variety of processing errors, including but not limited to thickness/composition inhomogeneity in any layer-comprising PV device, non-uniform scribing, thin-film stress, cracking, and layer separation.

Tau Science Corporation (Beaverton, OR)
Optimizing PV Solar Manufacturing Efficiency through Real-Time Process Feedback and Spectral Binning of Cells
Tau Science is investigating advanced metrology concepts for solar cell manufacturing. At present, manufacturers lack immediate feedback on key process steps such as junction formation and film deposition. This gap is particularly evident when an offline sampling plan cannot be easily implemented for continuous roll processing. In response, non-contact, electro-optic techniques are being developed to extract semiconductor bandgap and full spectrum photoresponse. These techniques, if successful, may be implemented inline for improved process feedback and control.

Lehighton Electronics, Inc. (Lehighton, PA)
Using Microwaves, Coupled Eddy Current, and Open-Circuit Voltage Technology to Improve PV Manufacturing Processes
Lehighton Electronics is looking to combine sheet resistance and OCV dopant density and carrier lifetime to enable nondestructive measurements of PV wafers and cells for process control during manufacturing. The data, combined with photoluminescence and electroluminescence measurements by Wilkes University, will provide feedback for troubleshooting problems, with the final goal of developing a combined instrumentation system.

2011 Phase II

-- These projects are inactive --

Colnatec LLC (Gilbert, AZ)
Self-Cleaning Process Control Sensor for Thin-Film Solar Cell Manufacturing
Colnatec is developing a thin-film deposition process control and measurement sensor for the fabrication of CIGS and related thin-film solar cells. The unique capability of this sensor is the ability to operate at temperatures up to 1000°C. This opens the door to monitoring CIGS furnace processes, solar cell surface chemistry, and crystalline phase formation, which can ultimately lead to the highest efficiency PV cells possible. A side benefit is this same sensor operates better than current technologies in organic vapor phase deposition (OVPD), the leading process for making flexible (OLED) lighting, flexible electronics circuits, and low-cost organic PV panels.

Spire Corporation (Bedford, MA)
Next-Generation, LED-based, Adjustable Spectrum, Pulsed Solar Simulator
Spire's next-generation solar simulators incorporate arrays of high-reliability, low-voltage, solid-state light emitting diodes that emit across the entire solar spectrum to generate light whose spectrum can be electronically programmed. This makes it possible to use one simulator to rapidly test silicon, thin film, concentrator, or other solar modules as they emerge from the manufacturing assembly line. The electronically tunable spectrum feature is useful for diagnosing the performance of multi-junction tandem cells, where each junction of the tandem cell can be independently evaluated for current generation and efficiency. Designed to operate in a "flasher" mode, light flashes of arbitrary duration can be keyboard controlled. Because the system is based on a modular design, simulators of arbitrary size can be assembled.

Spire Corporation (Bedford, MA)
Photoluminescence for Solar Cell Crack Detection
Spire Corporation is developing an automated system using photoluminescence (PL) imaging for detecting microcracks in mono- and multi-crystalline silicon solar cells. Unlike electroluminescence, which requires probing of a cell that is complete with electrical contacts, PL is a non-contact technique that can be used to monitor cell quality at any step in the cell fabrication process. High-quality, 1-megapixel PL images of 156-mm-square cells are being obtained with a laser illuminator and an infrared linescan camera in 2.3 seconds or less. Image processing software is being developed to automatically identify cells with microcracks. A prototype high throughput (1,200 cells/hour) system is being built and tested.

2011 Phase I

-- These projects are inactive --

Nano EnerTex, Inc. (Houston, TX)
Ultra-Thin III-V Films for Tandem Photovoltaic Application
Nano EnerTex partnered with the University of Houston to demonstrate that ultra-thin (< 1 micron) dual-junction solar cells with practical efficiencies in excess of 25% may be achieved through careful design optimization. The team evaluated the design parameters as a function of dislocation densities for devices that comprise a 1.7 electron volt (eV) top AlGaAs solar cell and a 1.25 eV bottom GaAs(N)Sb cell. The experimental validation of modeling data on thin-film subcells grown on intentionally dislocated buffers indicated that even for defect densities in excess of 108cm-2, top and bottom cells with open-circuit voltages of in excess of 1 and 0.75 volts (V) respectively were obtained. These findings stress the potential for fabricating high-efficiency, defect-tolerant, thin-film III-V devices.

Plant PV (Mountain View, CA)
Highly Efficient, Thin-Film Tandem Solar Cells
Plant PV studied solution-processed, wide-bandgap chalcogenides for tandem applications. The goal of this project was to develop efficient devices with open-circuit voltage exceeding 1V.

Xunlight 26 Solar, LLC (Toledo, OH)
Transparent Back Contacts for Thin CdTe-Based Tandem Cells
Xunlight 26 Solar is building on its Phase I effort with a Phase II 2012 project.

Luminit, LLC (Torrance, CA)
Holographic Building Integrated Photovoltaic (HBIPV) Technology
Luminit developed a holographic building integrated photovoltaic (HBIPV) technology using highly efficient multiplexed holograms with expanded bandwidth and PV cells. The development of the HBIPV technology is intended to replace the old building materials or structures, giving a push to new aesthetics in the building industry while adding PV generation for increased solar energy yield.

Creative Light Source, Inc. (Boulder, CO)
Holographic Passively Tracking Planar Solar Concentrator
Creative Light Source developed a holographic solar concentrator based on the concept of an inexpensive holographic film applied to a 2-mm-thick panel of glass or plastic. Photons are captured by the hologram, trapped within the panel and funneled via internal reflection to thin PV strips at the panel edge. One of the advantages of using this technology in a solar panel is that the holograms provide the ability to track the sun without any moving parts. The panels are fixed in space and multiple hologram layers are used to trap the sun's light from different angles.

2010 Phase II

-- These projects are inactive --

TDA Research, Inc. (Wheat Ridge, CO)
A New Three-Part Architecture for Efficient and Stable Bulk Heterojunction OPV Devices
The project extended the range of operation of bulk heterojunction organic photovoltaics (BHJ OPV) that are based on poly(3-hexyl)thiophene:fullerene blends further into the red (from ~630 nm to ~850 nm and beyond), while retaining the inexpensive solution processing characteristics of the binary blend. The ternary component of the new architectures was selected from a range of soluble yet relatively easy-to-synthesize organic dye molecules. Issues related to device stability were addressed by eliminating chemically unstable materials, which are unnecessary in the new architecture.

SVV Technology Innovations, Inc. (Sacramento, CA)
Concentrator PV Receiver Based on Crystalline Si Cells
The project aimed to solve the problem of inherent complexity in concentrating photovoltaics (CPV) by developing an innovative module. The CPV module employs a novel slat-array solar concentrator and a linear receiver based on off-the-shelf crystalline silicon cells. The open web frame concentrator structure offers a low-cost alternative to parabolic trough collectors. It also reduces the wind drag, thereby reducing the weight of the support frame as well as providing a highly uniform concentrated flux on the cells without losses associated with secondary optics.

MicroLink Devices (Niles, IL)
Backside Contact Multijunction Solar Cells for High Concentration Applications
This project developed a method for fabricating multijunction solar cells with backside contacts to improve cell efficiency under high concentration. Backside contacts have been applied to crystalline solar cells to achieve record efficiencies by reducing grid shadowing and resistive losses. Under high optical concentrations used in CPV systems, the losses associated with the topside grid metal increases significantly. The fabrication process developed etches via holes in the epitaxial structures to move the electrical grid to the backside of the device.

2009 Phase I

GT Crystal Systems, LLC (Salem, MA)
Material Utilization and Waste Reduction through Kerf Recycling
Silicon bars were sliced into wafers using diamond-plated wire to avoid contaminating the silicon kerf (sawdust). The kerf was processed into feedstock by melting and directional solidification. The recycling reduced the need for virgin silicon and minimized environmental disposal challenges.

Learn more about SETO's other technology to market funding programs.