ARPA-E launches new program to support solar energy innovation

August 6, 2013 0 By Erin Kilgore

New program to push solar energy into the future

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), has announced a new funding opportunity called Full-Spectrum Optimized Conversion and Utilization of Sunlight (FOCUS). The program is meant to support projects that involve solar energy. Innovative projects that involve hybrid solar energy systems will receive the majority of the program’s support. These projects would combine photovoltaic modules with integrated storage systems and would be designed in such a way that they would be less expensive than conventional solar energy and storage systems.

Program seeks to fund hybrid solar energy systems

The goal of the FOCUS program is to spur the development of solar energy technologies that are significantly more advanced than those that are in use today. The program is meant to confront many of the challenges that exist in the solar arena and overcome these obstacles to make solar power more available and less expensive overall. Cost is expected to be a major focus of the program and this will align with the Department of Energy’s overarching goal of making solar energy cost-competitive with other forms of power.

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Solar energy fundingCut funding presents some problems for ARPA-E

ARPA-E has been investing heavily in solar energy recently. The agency has been working to improve the efficiency of conventional solar technologies while also seeking ways to cut costs and make solar energy more attractive to a wider audience. Recently, however, the agency has seen much of its funding cut by the federal government. The U.S. House of Representatives has reduced the agency’s funding by 74%, but ARPA-E has still managed to make significant strides in the field of renewable energy.

Agency continues research into storage and grid integration

The Department of Energy is currently involved in many renewable energy projects. One of the agency’s primary goals currently is researching renewable energy storage and grid integration. Connecting renewable energy systems to the country’s existing energy grid has proven to be a problematic task, leading to the need for a modernized energy grid and more efficient storage systems.