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US agency funded to stimulate solar energy research

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has received US$2.7 million to help the state of California stimulate research into solar energy.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CUPC) wants NREL to help it build a sustainable solar industry. It has awarded US$2,785,000 in California Solar Initiative (CSI) Research, Development, Deployment and Demonstration programme grants.

The grants are part of CPUC’s first solicitation for projects that focus on integrating solar photovoltaics into the utility grid. NREL researchers will direct development of a software tool to optimise energy investments in the residential retrofit market, and lead another project to analyse high penetration levels of solar PV into California’s power grid.

NREL can break barrier on solar cost

“NREL is a leader in researching and developing methods and standards for integration of distributed resources into the nation’s power grid,” says Bob Hawsey of NREL’s Renewable Electricity and End Use Systems. “With utilities in California and other states limiting the penetration of renewable resources on certain distribution systems to less than 15%, NREL has an opportunity to help the commission and its partners break through the barriers to enable dramatic increases in solar electricity deployment.”

The CSI programme will invest US$50m to fund research and demonstration projects that measurably reduce the cost and accelerate the installation of solar energy and other distributed energy technologies for power generation or storage, or that reduce the use of natural gas.

The residential software modeling tool (Building Energy Optimizer for California Existing Homes) will facilitate balanced integration of solar PV with energy efficiency, demand response and energy storage on homes. Partners include Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Davis Energy Group, Energy & Environmental Economics and SunPower.

The project is valued at US$1.3m and will receive US$985,000 in grant funding. PG&E will contribute US$329,000 in matching funds.

System designed for large PV integration

NREL will work with Southern California Edison (SCE) and other partners to model, simulate and test advanced hardware and software that can be installed in the distribution grid to accelerate integration of large PV systems into the grid. The project will receive US$1.6m over two years, involves installing hardware and software systems in SCE’s territory. The US Department of Energy (DoE) will provide an additional US$1.4m in matching funds.

NREL will also participate in a project led by Clean Power Research (CPR) to develop a free solar resource model that builds on an existing PV model platform to enhance resolution of satellite-based resource data. The tool can be used by California solar system installers, manufacturers, agencies and utilities which provide clean energy power systems.

NREL will receive US$200,000 over two years; the total project funding is US$2,293,000.

NREL is DoE’s primary laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. It is operated for DoE by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy.

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Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Solar electricity