Awards to boost research into cheaper solar electricity

GOLDEN, COLO., AUG. 17, 2001 – The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) today announced the 19 universities and 14 companies expected to receive a total of $40 million in funding for research and development into thin-film photovoltaic cells. Photovoltaics (solar cells) generate electricity directly from sunlight.

“Each of these awards makes possible a research and development direction that could significantly cut the cost of solar electricity,” said Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. “With lowered costs, solar energy’s potential can be fully realized, increasing its contribution to our national energy security and helping our environment. Developing cutting edge solar cell technologies also helps the U. S. photovoltaics industry maintain its position against tough foreign competition in this increasingly lucrative world market.”

Thin-film solar cells use tiny amounts of semiconductor material compared to the more conventional crystal silicon cells, which leads to greatly reduced production costs.

National research teams formed as a result of these awards will perform collaborative research on key research problems. The teams consist of university, industry and NREL researchers.

The actual number of awards and their amounts will depend on the final budget available in the Energy Department’s fiscal year 2002 budget. Many of the awards are cost-shared, with recipients contributing a total of $13 million toward the effort. DOE is making the awards in three categories:

– Technology Partners awards are cost-shared, meaning industry as well as government contributes to the project. The Technology Partners awards go to U.S. companies to improve efficiency, reduce unit cost and enhance product reliability of thin-film solar cells.

– R&D Partners awards will go to universities and businesses to increase the understanding and knowledge of the science behind the expanding solar electricity industry, currently growing at more than 30 percent a year.

– The University Center of Excellence is designated by the Energy Department to perform advanced research on solar-electric materials and devices. It also works in partnership with industry groups.

Industry and university groups to receive awards under the three categories include:


– BP Solar, Toano, Va. – Energy Photovoltaics, Lawrenceville, N.J. – First Solar, Perrysburg, Ohio – Global Solar Energy, Tucson, Ariz. – Iowa Thin Films, Boone, Iowa – Siemens Solar Industries, Camarillo, Calif. – United Solar Systems Corporation, Troy, Mich.


– AstroPower, Newark, Del. – BP Solar, Fairfield, Calif. – California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. – Case Western University, Cleveland, Ohio – Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colo. – Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo. – Energy Conversion Devices, Troy, Mich. – Energy Photovoltaics, Lawrenceville, N.J. – Florida Solar Energy Center, Cocoa, Fla. – Green Development, Golden, Colo. – International Solar Electric Technology, Inglewood, Calif. – Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa – ITN Energy Systems, Littleton, Colo. – MV Systems, Golden, Colo. – NuSolar, Santa Monica, Calif. – Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa. – Syracuse University, Syracuse, N.Y. – Unisun, Newbury Park, Calif. – University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla. – University of Illinois, Champaign, Ill. – University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb. – University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C. – University of Oregon, Eugene, Ore. – University of South Florida, Tampa, Fla. – University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio – University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah – Washington State University, Richland, Wash.


– Institute of Energy Conversion, University of Delaware, Newark, Del.

The funds will be awarded under DOE’s National Center for Photovoltaics’ (NCPV) Thin Film Photovoltaics Partnership Program (formed 1993), which is responsible for bringing about significant technical progress in solar electricity. Initiatives under the program have received four R&D 100 Awards from R&D Magazine and numerous patents.

More information on the National Center for Photovoltaics is available on the Internet at

MEDIA MAY CONTACT: George Douglas (303) 275-4096

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