The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Washington, D.C., recently announced that it will invest up to $13.7 million over three years — fiscal years 2008 – 2010 — for 11 university-led projects that will focus on developing advanced solar photovoltaic (PV) technology manufacturing processes and products. These projects are integral to President Bush’s Solar America Initiative, which aims to make solar energy cost-competitive with conventional forms of electricity by 2015. Increasing the use of solar energy is also critical to diversifying our nation’s energy sources in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on foreign oil. Combined with a minimum university and industry cost share of 20%, up to $17.4 million will be invested in these projects.

“Harnessing the natural and abundant power of the sun and more cost-effectively converting it into energy has enormous potential to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide greater stability in electricity costs,” says DOE Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander Karsner. “These projects will not only bolster innovation in PV technology, but they will help meet the president’s goal of making clean and renewable solar power commercially viable by 2015.”

Universities selected for these projects will leverage fundamental understanding of materials and PV devices to help industry partners advance manufacturing processes and products. These projects have the potential to significantly reduce the cost of electricity produced by PV from current levels of $0.18-$0.23 per kilowatt hour to $0.05 - $0.10 per kilowatt hour by 2015. Each university will work closely with an industry partner to ensure the projects retain a commercialization focus and that results are quickly transitioned into market ready-products and manufacturing processes. Additionally, students will be exposed to diverse PV-related commercialization efforts, enhancing workforce development in an effort to increase competitiveness and retain qualified scientists in the growing domestic PV research and development industry