Solar R&D Projects Part Of U.S. Investment In Clean Energy Industry

On the heels of President Biden's move to accelerate clean energy development, DOE announces solar energy research project investments.

With President Biden issuing presidential determinations on June 6 to provide the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) the authority to utilize the Defense Production Act (DPA) to accelerate domestic production of five key energy technologies, a flurry of activity around clean energy is expected. The focus of the President’s action is on the following technologies.

  • Solar
  • Transformers and electric grid components
  • Heat pumps
  • Insulation
  • Electrolyzers, fuel cells, and platinum group metals

DPA authority, with the necessary funding appropriated by Congress, will allow the federal government to invest in companies that can build clean energy facilities, expand clean energy manufacturing, process clean energy components, and install clean energy technologies for consumers.

In its June 6 announcement on the Presdent’s move, DOE states: “We must harness the United States’ untapped potential to support greater domestic production for domestic use and export. With today’s DPA actions, the Biden-Harris Administration is taking bold action to support U.S. clean energy manufacturing and supply chains. This will strengthen U.S. national and climate security while reducing energy costs for American families. These technologies, products, and component materials will be made in America, creating more good-paying union jobs. In using the DPA to support clean energy manufacturing, the Department will encourage recipients of federal support to use strong labor standards, including project labor agreements and community benefits agreements that include local hire provisions. In addition, the Department encourages use of the tools unlocked by the DPA to support low-income communities who have been hard-hit with pollution.

Solar Energy Research Projects Part Of Process

Solar photovoltaic (PV) energy is identified as the largest source of new U.S. electricity generation capacity and the cheapest new electricity source in many regions of the country. However, domestic solar PV production does not meet current demand. So, it may not be surprising that on June 10 the DOE announced its own investment in solar energy research that “will support President Biden’s goal of addressing the climate crisis by driving innovation and speeding clean energy deployment to achieve a carbon-free electricity sector by 2035 and net-zero emissions energy sector by 2050.”

clean energy
Photo: AdobeStock/By Anatoliy Gleb

DOE announced that it had selected 19 projects across 13 U.S. states, with a total funding of $6 million, that will pursue targeted, early-stage ideas in solar energy research and development.

The projects were selected through the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) Small Innovative Projects in Solar (SIPS) 2022 Funding Program. SIPS projects focus on novel, high-risk, or high impact ideas that can produce significant results within the first year of performance, quickly validating new concepts and laying the foundation for continued research. SIPS is an ongoing SETO program that has funded more than 100 projects since it began in 2015.

Applicants also submitted plans to support team members from groups traditionally underrepresented in engineering and science as part of their projects. Four lead or partner members on the selected projects come from minority-serving institutions.

Projects were awarded in two solar energy research areas: photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP). CSP projects innovate across all aspects of CSP plants, including thermal energy storage, solar-thermal fuel systems, and solar-thermal process heat for industrial decarbonization.

The following organizations were selected to receive CSP SIPS awards:

  • Advanced Materials Scientia, LLC (Bothell, WA)
  • Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ)
  • Flowserve Corporation (Irving, TX)
  • Heliogen, Inc. (Pasadena, CA)
  • Sandia National Laboratories (Albuquerque, NM)
  • University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ)
  • University of Maine (Orono, ME)
  • University of Tulsa (Tulsa, OK)

PV projects will improve power conversion efficiency, energy output, reuse and recycling processes, service lifetime, and manufacturability of PV technologies. The following organizations were selected to receive PV SIPS awards:

  • Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ)
  • Argonne National Laboratory (Lemont, IL)
  • Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, OH)
  • University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, AL)
  • University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ)
  • University of Connecticut (Storrs, CT)
  • University of Delaware (Newark, DE)
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa (Honolulu, HI)
  • University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA)
  • Uriel Solar (Westlake Village, CA)

Airport Improvements Taking Off Across U.S.

In other news from the federal government, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has awarded $518 million for airport improvements. This second round of the 2022 Airport Improvement Program (AIP) awards includes 416 grants to airports across the U.S. to fund a variety of projects: construction of new and improved airport facilities, repairs to runways and taxiways, maintenance of airfield elements like lighting or signage, and purchasing equipment needed to operate and maintain airports.

“We’re investing $518 million in airports across America so communities big and small can continue to safely and efficiently connect with the rest of the world,” said FAA Associate Administrator for Airports Shannetta Griffin, P.E.

Image: Adobe Stock/ phaisarnwong2517

View an interactive FAA map with all the awards.

Grant recipients include:

  • Heber Springs Municipal Airport (Heber Springs, AR)
  • La Crosse Regional Airport (La Crosse, WI)
  • Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport (Springfield, IL)
  • Lehigh Valley International Airport (Allentown, PA)
  • James M. Cox Dayton International Airport (Dayton, OH)
  • Yellowstone Airport (West Yellowstone, MT)
  • Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (Savannah, GA)
  • Faribault Municipal-Liz Wall Strohfus Field Airport (Faribault, MN)
  • Naples Municipal (Naples, FL)
  • Cyril E. King Airport (Charlotte Amalie, VI)
  • Pullman Regional Airport (North Pullman, WA)
  • Lake Charles Regional Airport (Lake Charles, LA)
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