Accelerating solar energy research

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General Electric is accelerating its solar energy research program with the help of an $8.1m grant from the US Department of Energy.

General Electric

is accelerating its solar energy research program with the help of an $8.1m grant from the

US Department of Energy

as part of President Bush’s Solar America Initiative.

US Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Andy Karsner and other representatives from the US Department of Energy (DOE) visited GE Energy’s Newark, Delaware solar manufacturing facility recently to highlight the company’s selection for the initiative and to discuss the future of solar energy in the US.

Earlier this month, the DOE announced funding for 13 solar technology development projects, including one to be led by GE, that would help decrease the cost of manufacturing and distributing solar electricity. The Solar America Initiative is part of President Bush’s Advanced Energy Initiative. The funding is subject to award negotiation and appropriation from the US Congress.

According to the DOE, the funding for the first year of GE’s project is expected to be roughly $8,100,000, with approximately $18,600,000 available over three years if the GE-led team meets its goals.

GE Energy will be heading an alliance of companies, universities and researchers that are collaborating to accelerate the large-scale commercialisation of solar technology into products that are cost competitive with retail electricity rates without the need for government assistance. The GE-led team’s commercialisation strategy focuses on residential and commercial buildings that currently consume more than 60 percent of the electricity generated in the United States. By 2010, GE and its team will be positioned to deliver more than 200 megawatts (MW) of GE-branded solar electric products and Brilliance systems into the US residential and commercial markets.

The alliance’s goal is to drive down the cost of electricity to make solar energy competitive with other power generation technologies, leading to widespread application in the United States.

In addition, balance-of-system technologies will be developed to support low-cost installation and increased energy yield and future enhancements to building energy management and power quality. All will support the development, commercial scale-up and customer delivery of complete solar systems.

Research will take place at GE Energy’s facility in Newark, Delaware and at the GE Global Research Center in Niskayuna, New York.

GE’s alliance includes Renewable Energy Corporation (REC ASA), Solaicx, Xantrex Technology, the University of Delaware’s Institute of Energy Conversion, Georgia Institute of Technology, North Carolina State University, Sandia National Laboratories and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

GE Energy’s vision for its solar business is to focus on performance improvements and technology developments. According to a study by the Solar Energy Industries Association and the Prometheus Institute, US solar installations were projected to grow by 20 percent in 2006 to 120MW-dc.