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.
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 SETO.RFI.SI@ee.doe.gov 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!