DOE Offers $50M to Test New Solar Technologies

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"The funding will make utility-scale solar projects possible."

Last week, the Department of Energy (DOE) said it will offer up to $50 million to test new solar technologies in an attempt to develop cost-competitive solar technologies. The program will help fund demonstration projects at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) and is designed to serve as a step between testing and full-scale commercialization of technologies.

The funds are intended to support projects that include concentrating solar power projects that demonstrate the ability to develop solar power that is cost-competitive with conventional electricity without subsidies. At this point the department has only announced the funding.

"We plan to announce the funding opportunity early next year," said DOE spokesperson Tom Welch. "At that point, we'll have instructions for the types of projects they want to fund."

The DOE said it is funding the projects because of the lack of utility-scale solar projects that have come online within the last decade. It added that demonstrating that these technologies are cost-competitive in real world conditions may allow such projects greater access to financing.

The concentrating solar projects this funding is targeted toward will include concentrating solar power (CSP) and concentrating photovoltaics (CPV), though CSP could include technologies like solar thermal power, usually in the form of reflective troughs that heat a liquid in tubes or solar tower systems that reflect sunlight onto a central tower.

The NNSS is part of the Solar Demonstration Zone, which was designated to test new solar technologies earlier this year.

The demonstration projects installed at the site are designed to be built on a large enough scale to showcase the technology and collect "useful operating and economic data" to help the successful technologies be deployed on the commercial scale, DOE said.

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