Sunday, September 9, 2012

Incentives Aimed at Solar Innovations

Federal funds seeking to stimulate the adoption of solar power are targeting the major barrier to solar expansion — cost — and local research institutions are benefitting.
Michael Patrick/Business Journal A Nissan LEAF charges
as TVA and the Electric Power Research Institute  dedicate
the SMART station that has solar, battery storage and
electric grid capabilities. The partnership, which installed
the station at EPRI's West Knoxville office in 2011, is
building three more across the state this year.

The Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative is focused on reducing the cost of solar power by 75 percent before 2020 and is providing grants and loan guarantees for a range of projects.

The University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory have received SunShot funds for research efforts including:

n Rooftop Solar Challenge, $700,000: This project of the University of Tennessee and the Tennessee Solar Institute aims to streamline the permitting process because non-hardware costs are estimated at 40 percent of the installations. Working with government officials, utilities and other key players in the cities of Knoxville, Chattanooga, Nashville and Memphis, the team will work to create a uniform system of documentation, develop a relevant mobile application for solar installers and work to standardize codes applicable to solar installations.

n Thin-film solar cell efficiency, $379,000: A collaboration between Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, this project targets the efficiency of thin-film solar cells made of cadmium telluride, a potentially less expensive alternative to silicon photovoltaics. Efficiency gains in the technology are needed, however, to make it a competitive alternative. The project will utilize ORNL's electron microscope capabilities to analyze the material on a nano-scale in order to better understand its properties.

n Cascaded micro inverter photovoltaic system, $108,000: Traditionally expensive, breakable and inefficient, photovoltaic inverters are the target of this project, to be tackled by a team from UT, ORNL and Global Power Electronics. The funding will go toward development and testing of a new type of inverter prototype that would be cost effective and perform better than existing technology.


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