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Energy Department Launches Up to $30 Million Effort to Improve Solar Module Materials

The U.S. Department of Energy today announced a new Energy Materials Network (EMN) consortium, the Durable Module Materials (DuraMat) National Lab Consortium led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). DuraMat is designed to accelerate the development and deployment of new, high performance materials for photovoltaic (PV) modules to lower the cost of electricity generated by solar power, while increasing field lifetime.

The Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative will provide DuraMat with an estimated $30 million over five years, subject to appropriations. Leveraging these funds, DuraMat will utilize the expertise and capabilities of the national laboratories to develop innovative new materials for module components. The consortium will support materials-improvement projects in partnership with industry and academia to further optimize reliability and energy harvest of low-cost PV modules. Sandia National Laboratories, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory will join NREL as collaborators in the consortium.

The Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) in February announced the launch of EMN, an initiative crafted to give American entrepreneurs and manufacturers a competitive edge in the global race for clean energy. EMN focuses on tackling one of the major barriers to widespread commercialization of clean energy technologies—namely, the design, testing, and production of advanced materials. By strengthening and facilitating industry access to the unique scientific and technical advanced materials innovation resources available at the Energy Department’s national labs, the network will help industry bring these materials to market more quickly.

DuraMat is the latest EMN consortium created by EERE. Others already in progress are the Lightweight Materials Consortium (LightMat) on lightweight materials for various applications, Electrocatalysis Consortium (ElectroCat) on new catalysts for fuel cells, and Caloric Cooling Consortium (CaloriCool) on refrigerant materials for cooling applications. Three more consortia are anticipated to be announced in fiscal year 2017.

EERE envisions that dramatically accelerating the development of new PV module materials will clear the way for significant reductions in the cost of solar power. It is expected that DuraMat will lead to dependable, high-performance, low-cost PV module materials and architectures by:

  • Developing module technologies that will enable dramatic reductions in the levelized cost of energy from solar power.
  • Building a network of active collaborations from within the national laboratories, academia, and industry to design, develop, and deploy advanced module materials.
  • Moving highly promising module materials and technologies from early stages of research to successful deployment in the marketplace at an accelerated rate.

Overall, the EMN consortia will form a network of advanced materials R&D capabilities and resources that will support the Administration’s commitment to revitalizing American manufacturing and maintaining a competitive edge in the clean energy economy. This effort supports the President’s Materials Genome Initiative, which has been engaged in work to discover, manufacture, and deploy advanced materials twice as fast, at a fraction of the cost. EMN also supports the recommendations of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership 2.0, a White House-convened working group of leaders from industry, academia, and labor, which highlighted the importance of producing advanced materials for technologies critical to U.S. competitiveness in manufacturing.

To learn more about EMN, please visit the website and watch this video.

The Energy Department's SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort that aggressively drives innovations making solar energy cost competitive with traditional energy sources without financial incentives. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy works with private industry, universities, and national laboratories to accelerate the development and deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality. 

Distribution channels: Energy