DOE invests $20M to optimize lifecycle of solar energy materials, address supply chain vulnerabilities

The Department of Energy announced Friday that it will spend $20 million on a program to improve solar energy installations and efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle associated materials in order to optimize the solar lifecycle and minimize waste.

One of the projects the funding will establish is called the Solar Partnership to Advance Recycling and Circularity, or Solar PARC, which will use $8 million to support a single partner in improving recovery efficiency and end-of-life practices for solar components, including modules and inverters.

DOE will also provide three to six other projects with $2 million to $4 million each to “bring expertise from all four stages of the PV system lifecycle to reduce cost and improve performance of a PV system and its components,” according to a funding department notice.

The funding initiative is “part of Bidenomics and President Biden’s Investing in America agenda,” DOE said in a release, and takes $8 million of its funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law. The program aims to help enable solar energy development and create jobs.

The department recently announced a similar program to support wind turbine recycling innovations, offering $5.1 million in prizes for technologies that help overcome barriers to a fully circular economy for wind turbines.

DOE cited a 2021 Solar Future Study that projected solar will need to grow from supplying 5% of domestic electricity to 40% by 2035 in order for the US to meet its federal decarbonization goals.

“With reduced use and improved recovery of critical materials, PV system deployment will become less dependent on supply chain limitations and can sustain this unprecedented growth,” the department said.

DOE will hold an informational webinar about the program on July 26, and is requiring funding applicants to submit a letter of intent by Sept. 6, along with a concept paper by Sept. 13.

“Teams from institutions of higher education, for-profit entities, non-profit entities, state and local government, and Tribal entities are encouraged to apply,” said the funding notice.

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