Author: DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office  Published: 2/25/2020   Pcpcllc

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Solar Energy Technologies Office

Our biggest news of 2020: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) announced $125.5 million in funding for new projects. Letters of intent are due March 9, so start your applications! Innovation is the name of the game, as the newly selected semifinalists in Round 3 of the American-Made Solar Prize can tell you. The Round 2 competitors will be demonstrating their ideas at a big event in March, which you don’t want to miss. SETO wants your ideas about solar variability prediction, so check out our request for information (RFI) and tell us what you think—responses are due March 4.

These stories and more in this edition of the SETO newsletter.

Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2020 Funding Opportunity

What Would You Do with $125.5 Million?

If your answer is “Give it to projects that advance research and development of solar energy technologies,” you’re reading the right newsletter. On February 5, 2020, DOE announced that the Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2020 (SETO 2020) Funding Program will award $125.5 million to projects that lower solar costs, enable solar-plus-storage, enhance cybersecurity protections, increase manufacturing, develop solar-powered microgrids, and site solar with agriculture. There’s also space for artificial intelligence: We are looking for projects that use machine learning to improve solar. SETO expects to award 55 to 80 projects. Keep in mind: You must file a letter of intent to apply, and it’s due March 9, 2020.

American-Made Solar Prize: Demo Day and New Competitors

If you want to see innovation in action, make sure you’re in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on March 27, 2020: That’s when the teams competing the American-Made Solar Prize Round 2 will demonstrate their proofs of concept at a national event during Carnegie Mellon University’s Energy Week, for a chance to win $100,000 and compete for the grand prize, a $1 million pool.

The newest batch of competitors, which were announced on February 11, 2020, are competing in Round 3. They will receive $50,000 to turn their ideas into proofs of concept and present them at a national demonstration day event in June. Some of those ideas? A hybrid renewable-energy power tower, a mobile solar array on skis, and a residential solar installation that can transform into a microgrid. Read more about these 20 teams and their inventive works in progress.

In the Forecast: Solar Variability Prediction

Since the sun is not always up or out, better prediction of solar power would help SETO’s grid integration efforts and inform the major players in solar power output—grid operators, owners and operators of utility-scale plants, and aggregators of distributed photovoltaic (PV) systems. This is where you come in: In January, SETO issued a request for information, asking for your input on predicting solar irradiance and power so we can best plan our efforts to fund related technologies. Email your response to by March 4, 2020, at 12 p.m. ET. We look forward to hearing from you.

High Praise: Commonwealth Edison Project Wins Award

At the DISTRIBUTECH International 2020 conference in January, SETO awardee Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) received the Best Practices Award for Product Innovation for its Bronzeville Community Microgrid, a project that was awarded $4 million in 2016. Recognizing ComEd’s contribution to a more sustainable, resilient power system in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago and the broader service area, the industry group Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative and an independent advisory panel awarded the ComEd team for its leadership in the shift toward a more consumer-centric energy ecosystem. Well done!

The Lowdown on Systems Integration

The nation’s power grid is complicated, but we’re making it easier with our systems integration “basics” webpages. Perhaps you read the one on inverters and grid services recently. But what about distributed energy systems and microgrids? Now we have those basics, too, so you can get a more complete picture of how solar energy technologies work together to deliver power, even when the weather refuses to cooperate.

Better Than Summer School: Apply for the HOPE Workshop

Graduate students interested in staying on top of the latest solar technology advancements should apply for the Hands-On Photovoltaic Experience (HOPE) Workshop, a week-long, immersive learning opportunity July 19–24, 2020, at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. The workshop offers students the chance to see how solar cells and modules are made, learn advanced characterization techniques, and meet NREL scientists and other researchers from across the country. Applications are due March 9, 2020, so tell your friends and apply today!

Shedding Light: Solar on the Farm

Bringing solar energy to land used for agriculture offers benefits to farmers as well as developers, including reduced installation and electricity costs. We want to make the process easier by addressing the many questions associated with installing PV around crops and animals, such as how it affects the soil, vegetation, domesticated and wild animals, pollinator habitat—pollinator-friendly legislation exists in seven states now—and more. Read all about it in the Farmer’s Guide to Going Solar, and if you have ideas that can help expand solar adoption on agricultural lands, take a look at Topic Area 6: Solar and Agriculture in the SETO 2020 funding opportunity announcement and apply today.


23rd Annual Transmission Summit East
March 4–6 | Arlington, Virginia
Join SETO Director Becca Jones-Albertus at this summit to discuss strategies to integrate storage and distributed assets, protect against extreme weather and cyber threats, and leverage cloud computing.

Applied Power Electronics Conference (APEC)
March 15–19 | New Orleans, Louisiana
Meet up with SETO staff at APEC, which brings researchers and practitioners from around the world to discuss the latest developments in the power electronics industry.

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Energy Week
March 23–27 | Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
SETO Deputy Director Maria Vargas will give the keynote speech at CMU Energy Week, now in its fifth year, where CEOs, entrepreneurs, government leaders, academic experts, and students discuss ways to advance energy technologies and innovations.

SETO in the News

Solar Photo of the Week

PV array at the National Wind Technology Center in Colorado

A PV array at the National Wind Technology Center in Colorado. Photo by Dennis Schroeder. Click the photo to download it.

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SETO is part of the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.