Photovoltaics Research and Development

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The Photovoltaics (PV) subprogram supports research and development projects that lower manufacturing costs, increase efficiency and performance, and improve reliability of PV technologies, in order to support the widespread deployment of electricity produced directly from sunlight (“photovoltaics”). The PV portfolio includes research directed toward reaching a levelized cost of energy of $0.03 per kilowatt-hour.

Reaching 2030 Goals

With the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) of photovoltaics having decreased by roughly 90% since 2011, the PV subprogram is focusing on opportunities for even greater cost reductions to reach a LCOE of $0.03/kWh. This will allow for costs of several cents/kWh to address dispatchability and grid performance (e.g. for energy storage devices, demand side management, grid operation and planning, and advanced power electronics) while maintaining cost competitiveness.

The figure below illustrates different technology pathways to reaching the 2030 goal of $0.03/kWh for subsidy-free utility-scale solar power.

Unless noted, all scenarios above assume one-axis tracking systems with 1,860 kWh(AC)/kW(DC), five-year MACRS, 7% weighted average cost of capital (WACC), 2.5% inflation, $0.85/W system cost, $4/kW-year O&M, 0.2%/year degradation and a 50-year system lifetime.

PV Program Impact

The PV subprogram maintains U.S. leadership in PV R&D, with a strong record of impact over the past several decades. For example, over one half of the world’s PV cell efficiency records on the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s chart were supported by the PV program and its predecessors.

National Renewable Energy Efficieny Chart
Photovoltaic efficiency chart courtesy of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory

PV Project Portfolio

The projects in the portfolio currently represent roughly $179 million of investment, made over periods from two to five years. Details about these programs and projects can be found here.

The webpages linked below provide more information about key photovoltaic technologies: