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The Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF) is a competitive laboratory funding opportunity designed to help commercialize promising energy technologies developed at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE’s) National Laboratories. The TCF is administered by the DOE’s Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) and is part of a set of initiatives to foster stronger partnerships among DOE facilities, private companies, and other entities that bring energy technologies to the marketplace.

In the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO), funding is awarded to projects focused on bringing solar energy technologies to market. Funded projects address photovoltaics, grid integration, solar-plus-energy storage, and other topics. A full list of projects can be found under the Awardees section below.

Approach

The TCF supports projects in two categories: technology maturation and technology commercialization.

Technology maturation projects will be developed to the point where a business will enter into a cooperative research and development (R&D) agreement or seek to license the technology. They must identify the advances that need to be made to secure a partner. These projects have six to 18 months to achieve their goals and must involve existing DOE facility technology or intellectual property that shows commercial potential. Such projects do not require a private partner.

Technology commercialization projects have one to three years to achieve their goals. Proposed commercialization projects are eligible for consideration without a previous maturation project. These projects must involve existing DOE facility technology or intellectual property, and the facility must have a private partner with an identified commercial application for the technology. Partners may be any non-federal entity, including state and local governments, universities, nonprofits, and businesses.

All projects receive 50% cost share from internal laboratory funding or a commercial partner, are required to report quantitative progress, and must participate in OTT’s TCF program evaluation for up to five years from the award date.

Objectives

The TCF ensures federal R&D investments in technologies with commercial potential find their way to a viable market. Funding helps advance energy technologies to the point where a private partner is willing to assist in commercialization, and funding supports cooperative development of technologies with a private partner for a specific commercial application.

TCF gives SETO, other DOE offices, and National Laboratories the opportunity to pursue a strategic, competitive approach to commercializing technologies developed at the labs. It enables DOE facilities to better prepare these technologies for the market, identify the best prospective industry partners, and help those partners evaluate technologies for their business models.

Awardees

2020

Idaho National Laboratory
Project Type: Technology Commercialization
Project Name: Operational Integration and Scalable Deployment of Microgrid Control Algorithms into Nanogrid Inverter + PV + Storage Applications
SETO Award Amount: $220,000
Awardee Cost Share: $220,000
Idaho National Laboratory plans to work with Inergy Solar to develop and commercialize a nanogrid controller (NC) for a solar-plus-storage generator that can be integrated with a larger island grid or power grid system. This generator will enable smart NC chips to interconnect with other solar generators by integrating them onto central inverter generators, making the nanogrid applications both grid-interactive and portable. The goal of this project is to improve energy and storage management, modify power-sharing features, and create an intelligent technology that operates in parallel with electric grids of all sizes.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory 1
Project Type: Technology Commercialization
Project Name: Technical and Commercial Assessment of a Newly Developed Secondary Reflector Design for Linear Fresnel Technology
SETO Award Amount: $600,000
Awardee Cost Share: $600,000
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory will apply an innovative methodology to optimize a linear Fresnel secondary reflector technology for concentrating solar-thermal power plants. With Hyperlight Energy, NREL will create a solar field in California to test and demonstrate its methodology to improve the cost and optical efficiency of linear Fresnel collectors by optimizing the secondary reflector.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory 2
Project Type: Technology Commercialization
Project Name: Scribe and Interface Modification for Stable Halide Perovskite Modules
SETO Award Amount: $450,000
Awardee Cost Share: $450,000
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory will work with Tandem PV to improve stability and lifetime of perovskite photovoltaics. The project will investigate methods to protect device layers exposed by the scribing steps of monolithic interconnection, which separates thin-film cells during the module conversion process, and other coating defects. This approach could reduce degradation rates and improve overall module lifetime.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory 3
Project Type: Technology Maturation
Project Name: Cracked Film Lithography for Metal Grids in Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) Modules
SETO Award Amount: $250,000
Awardee Cost Share: $250,000
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory will work with First Solar apply its low-cost method of cracked film lithography to create metal gridlines on bifacial CdTe solar modules to increase their efficiency and power output.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory 4
Project Type: Technology Maturation
Project Name: Passivated Contacts for Direct Wafers
SETO Award Amount: $149,905
Awardee Cost Share: $152,654
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory will apply their thin-oxide passivated contact solar cell technology to low-cost, kerfless silicon wafers made by 1366 Technologies. (Kerf is silicon dust that is wasted when silicon is cut into thin wafers.) If successful, this solar cell could be highly efficient, and yield a low cost of energy.

Sandia National Laboratories 1
Project Type: Technology Commercialization
Project Name: Continuous Interoperability for Distributed Energy
SETO Award Amount: $500,000
Awardee Cost Share: $500,000
Sandia and the Sunspec Alliance plans to develop and commercialize a cloud-based continuous interoperability and cybersecurity validation system that supports and protects all distributed energy resource (DER) equipment that complies with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 1547-2018 standard. The project team will test the software to ensure the data communication interfaces across all DER systems meet cybersecurity requirements. The validation system will have a DER cybersecurity emergency response team and network operations center, as well as state-of-the-art technology to log incident reports and secure DER products from virtual threats. 

Sandia National Laboratories 2
Project Type: Technology Commercialization
Project Name: Heliostat Observation System Commercial Qualification
SETO Award Amount: $300,000
Awardee Cost Share: $300,000
Sandia plans to develop and commercialize a tool for concentrating solar power (CSP) towers that corrects the orientation of heliostat mirrors and integrates a modular technology by Heliogen that uses a closed-loop optical control system. The tool will be able to correct a heliostat’s tracking system, improve operations, and advance optical systems for new and existing CSP plants.

2019

Argonne National Laboratory
Project Type: Technology Maturation
Project Name: Integrated Power Block Heat Exchanger/Thermal Energy Storage System for CSP Plants
SETO Award Amount: $348,000
Awardee Cost Share: $350,000
Working with CFOAM, one of the world’s largest carbon and graphite foam manufacturers, Argonne will develop and commercialize a low-cost integrated heat exchanger/thermal energy storage system for concentrating solar-thermal power plants, desalination applications, and waste-heat recovery. By loading up CFOAM’s graphite foam with a salt designed to melt or freeze at an industrial process operating temperature, Argonne hopes to store energy and reduce costs by combining the heat exchanger and the thermal energy storage into a single component.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 
Project Type: Technology Commercialization
Project Name: Hydroscanner: Instrumentation for Water Ingress Imaging in Photovoltaic Module Packaging Materials 
SETO Award Amount: $250,000
Awardee Cost Share: $250,000
Water reduces the lifespan of solar panels and accelerates the degradation rate for the module’s power efficiency. In partnership with D2Solar, Vitriflex, Quanext Building Products Corporation, SCP SYS, and Sunrun, the lab will develop an imaging system to measure how much water gets into photovoltaic modules and related packaging materials, including encapsulants, moisture barriers, and edge seals.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory 1
Project Type: Technology Maturation
Project Name: Low-Maintenance Soiling Station
SETO Award Amount: $50,000
Awardee Cost Share: $50,000
Together with Atonometrics, First Solar, and Groundwork Renewables, the lab will work to demonstrate a novel, low-cost sensor that can accurately quantify the energy losses that result from soiling of photovoltaic modules in the field. The sensor will use a stable light source rather than varying sunlight to measure soiling, thereby limiting cleanings and maintenance.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory 2
Project Type: Technology Commercialization
Project Name: Flexible Perovskite-Perovskite PV for Mobile Power Applications
SETO Award Amount: $745,500
Awardee Cost Share: $747,000
The lab and Swift Solar are partnering to commercialize the lab’s novel solar cell device design. The design will enable the manufacture of lightweight, flexible, and highly efficient multijunction perovskite solar cells.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory 3
Project Type: Technology Maturation
Project Name: Enabling Interoperability for PV Inverter Controllers
SETO Award Amount: $150,000
Awardee Cost Share: $150,000
In partnership with Triangle Microworks, the lab will develop standard SCADA software code for inverter controllers that enables communications with other smart devices in the system. Power system protection engineers and power electronics engineers could use the protocols that create the code to develop and test novel operations and control strategies with interoperable communication protocols. 

National Renewable Energy Laboratory 4
Project Type: Technology Commercialization
Project Name: Solar Automated Permit Processing Software for Distributed PV
SETO Award Amount: $695,000
Awardee Cost Share: $695,000
This project will build on the lab’s existing software capabilities to commercialize the Solar Automated Permit Processing software platform known as SolarAPP. This tool will provide installers with a standard portal for entering permit information for residential solar systems across all authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) they operate, providing a streamlined form, transparency into permitting timelines, and required specifications. The installer partners are SunPower, Sunrun, Tesla, and Vivint. AHJs will then be able to approve those permits without overburdening AHJ personnel, with confidence that the permitted systems meet code requirements.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Project Type: Technology Commercialization
Project Name: Deploying Intra-hour Uncertainty Analysis Tools to ABB’s GridView
SETO Award Amount: $500,000
Awardee Cost Share: $500,000
This project seeks to integrate the lab’s intra-hour uncertainty analysis tools with GridView, a widely used tool to help transmission planners, electricity market modelers, and regulators perform production cost modeling studies. This project will add capabilities to GridView that allow users to perform high-fidelity simulations of five-minute markets while considering real-world uncertainties and constraints.

Sandia National Laboratories
Project Type: Technology Commercialization
Project Name: Development and Full Load Demonstration of a 1,000° Celsius Solid Particle Receiver for Concentrating Solar Power Applications
SETO Award Amount: $750,000
Awardee Cost Share: $752,620
The German Aerospace Center’s advanced particle receiver concept, an inclined rotating drum in which concentrated sunlight heats particles, will be tested at Sandia’s National Solar Thermal Test Facility at temperatures above 800° Celsius, heat-throughput levels greater than 5 megawatts, and solar-concentration ratios greater than 1,000 suns.

2018

National Renewable Energy Laboratory 1
Project Type: 
Technology Commercialization
Project Name: Distribution Function in Time Series Simulation
SETO Award Amount: $300,000
Awardee Cost Share: $300,000
This project with HOMER Energy intends to commercialize a distribution function that replaces the current steady-state assumption in an hourly simulation to expose phenomenon for grid integration and net-metering, such as balancing, ramp rates, inverter clipping, sell-back to the utility, and management of all assets on a power distribution system. The goal is to make computer modeling of variable power supply patterns much more accurate and expose new information required for reliability and efficiency of the overall distribution system.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory 2
Project Type: Technology Maturation
Project Name: Aerial Distant Observer Tool to Parabolic Trough Solar Fields
SETO Award Amount: $150,000
Awardee Cost Share: $150,000
The Distant Observer (DO) is a tool that characterizes mirror slope error and receiver position error of parabolic trough collectors in concentrating solar power plants. This project will enhance the DO by adding an aerial capability to enable the optical survey of a utility-scale solar field to be completed within a few hours. Solar Dynamics is the project partner.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory 3
Project Type: Technology Commercialization
Project Name: Full-Scale Hydrogen Mitigation Installation and Testing
SETO Award Amount: $750,000
Awardee Cost Share: $375,000
This project aims to solve efficiency degradation that gradually reduces electricity output over the life of parabolic trough power plants due to hydrogen generation in receiver tubes. The lab and Acciona Energy USA Global will design, implement, and evaluate a full-scale hydrogen mitigation process at the Nevada Solar One power plant.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory 4
Project Type: Technology Maturation
Project Name: Commercializing Perovskite/CIGS Tandems
SETO Award Amount: $100,000
Awardee Cost Share: $100,000
Ascent Solar Technologies manufactures lightweight, flexible copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) solar photovoltaic modules for remote locations and extreme environments. The goal of this project is to pair those CIGS modules with NREL’s halide perovskite technology, creating low-cost, high-efficiency tandem-junction solar cells. 

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Project Type: 
Technology Maturation
Project Name: Coordination of Real-Time Sub-Transmission Volt-Var Control Tool (CReST-VCT)
SETO Award Amount: $150,000
Awardee Cost Share: $150,000
In partnership with ABB Corporate Research Center and North Carolina State University, the lab will work to advance an integrated, coupled technologies approach, from advanced grid-edge solar photovoltaic (PV) inverters to distribution feeder equipment to sub-transmission systems. The lab developed the CReST-VCT to optimize the use of reactive power control devices to stabilize voltage fluctuations caused by intermittent PV outputs.

2017

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Project Type: Technology Maturation
Project Name: Fourier Spectrum Analysis for Water Ingress Impact
SETO Award Amount: $150,000
Awardee Cost Share: $150,000
This project builds upon previous development for a non-destructive method to measure water content in photovoltaic (PV) modules. The project team will deploy a prototype to gather water ingress data from a wide variety of PV modules that were subjected to accelerated testing and investigate correlations between moisture content and efficiency degradation.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Project Type: Technology Commercialization
Project Name: Optimal, Reliable Building Integrated Energy Storage
SETO Award Amount: $525,000
Awardee Cost Share: $525,000
Eaton Corporation and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory will develop control strategies that co-optimize battery lifetime with battery energy storage system performance to maximize its value proposition in residential and commercial behind-the-meter applications. The goals are to improve the net present value of building-integrated photovoltaic power by adding reliable energy storage, and to reduce the warranty risk associated with deploying storage in disparate markets where the battery’s daily load characteristics vary greatly.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Project Type: Technology Commercialization
Project Name: Cloud-Based Performance of Distribution Planning Tools
SETO Award Amount: $300,000
Awardee Cost Share: $300,000
This project aims to reduce utility analysis time for smart grid and distributed energy resource integration studies within the cloud-based GridUnity platform by improving GridLAB-D simulation time and data management tools. The team will develop, deploy, and evaluate new parallelization algorithms to increase the performance of system models by identifying bottlenecks that occur when operated within the GridUnity cloud service.

2016

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory 1
Project Type: Technology Commercialization
Project Name: Uncertainty Prediction Tools for Probabilistic Grid Operations
SETO Award Amount: $290,000
Awardee Cost Share: $290,000
This project aims to upgrade, move to production-grade, and commercialize uncertainty-based prediction tools that the lab developed for the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), including the ramping uncertainty tool and the day-ahead regulation prediction tool. The lab, CAISO, and AWS Truepower (AWST) will refine these tools to incorporate advanced weather-based prediction information from AWST and make other modifications to improve grid operations.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory 2
Project Name: Dish-STARS™ for Hydrogen Fuel Cells
SETO Award Amount: $850,000
Awardee Cost Share: $1 million
Paired with parabolic dish concentrators, the Solar Thermochemical Advanced Reactor System (Dish-STARS™) efficiently converts solar energy into chemical energy. The goal is to ramp up Dish-STARS production to hundreds or thousands of units per year and break ground for major deployments. This will enable Dish-STARS to be available for a variety of applications, including distributed and central power generation. Southern California Gas Co. and the STARS Corporation are partners on this project.