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SunShot Initiative Projects in Pennsylvania

The U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative is a national effort to support solar energy adoption by making solar energy affordable for all Americans through research and development efforts in collaboration with public and private partners.

 SunShot funds cooperative research, development, demonstration, and deployment projects by private companies, universities, state and local governments, nonprofit organizations, and national laboratories to drive down the cost of solar electricity.

Pennsylvania is home to 21 current and past SunShot Initiative projects.

Research, Development, and Deployment

Finding Pennsylvania's Solar Future

  • Awardee: Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection
  • Location: Harrisburg, PA             
  • Award Start Date: 2016
  • Status: Active
  • Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) Name: Solar Energy Evolution and Diffusion Studies 2 - State Energy Strategies (SEEDS2-SES)
  • Total Government Share: $550,000

This project uses detailed scenario modeling to analyze current solar development and legislation and determine how they will be applied in 2030 under a scenario where up to 10 percent of electricity sales are from solar generation. The project will inform strategies that help meet state energy goals, develop environmental compliance plans, contribute to Pennsylvania's compliance of the Clean Power Plan, and increase grid resiliency. This work will result in a well-informed solar deployment plan that will be available to policymakers, regulators, industry, investors, and consumers. This project is expected to help lower the costs, increase the speed, and lower the barriers to solar market expansion in Pennsylvania.

Tunneling Back-Contacted Silicon Photovoltaics 

  • Awardee:  Lehigh University
  • Location:  Bethlehem, PA      
  • Award Start Date: 2017
  • Status: Active
  • FOA Name: Photovoltaics Research and Development 2: Modules and Systems (PVRD2)
  • Total Government Share: $117,291

This project is investigating the introduction of atomic layer deposited (ALD) tunnel barriers that simultaneously allow electron flow and passivate the silicon surface for silicon-based solar cells. The tunnel barrier is combined with metal oxide materials that selectively transport electrons or holes. This work employs ALD for the fabrication of these thin film layers, which is a scalable technique capable of sub-nanometer control of film thickness, even on non-planar substrates. This work quantifies the electronic behavior of these contacts, which may constitute some of the most efficient electrical contacts to silicon photovoltaics to date.

Keystone Solar Future Project

  • Awardee: PPL Electric Utilities
  • Location: Allentown, PA
  • Award Start Date: 2017
  • Status: Active
  • FOA Name: Enabling Extreme Real-time Grid Integration of Solar Energy (ENERGISE)
  • Total Government Share: $3,320,000 (subject to change pending negotiations)

This project leverages several different grid technologies to deploy a distributed system platform that bridges the gap between existing and future technologies by monitoring, controlling, and optimizing a high penetration of solar generation. PPL is also developing a multi-layer device and communications architecture and a 500-customer pilot on at least 10 distribution circuits. The project team plans to perform an extensive one-year demonstration, proving all target parameters before deploying it system-wide.

Agent-Based Coordination Scheme for PV integration (ABC4PV)

  • Awardee: Carnegie Mellon University                                   
  • Location: Pittsburgh, PA              
  • Award Start Date: 2015                                                                 
  • Status: Active
  • FOA Name: Sustainable and Holistic Integration of Energy Storage and Solar PV (SHINES)
  • Total Government Share: $1,036,963

This project will develop and demonstrate a distributed, agent based control system to integrate smart inverters, energy storage, and commercial off-the-shelf home automation controllers and smart thermostats. The system will optimize PV generation, storage, and load consumption behaviors using high-performance, distributed algorithms.

Combined PV/Battery Grid Integration with High Frequency Magnetics Enabled Power Electronics

  • Awardee: National Energy Technology Laboratory           
  • Location: Pittsburgh, PA              
  • Award Start Date: 2015                                                                 
  • Status: Active
  • FOA Name: SunShot National Laboratory Multiyear Partnership (Systems Integration SuNLaMP)
  • Total Government Share: $4,238,040

This project will develop new power electronics devices, systems, and materials to address power electronic and dispatchability challenges that result from connecting hundreds of gigawatts of solar energy onto the electricity grid. These devices will incorporate advanced high-frequency (HF) magnetics along with the latest wide bandgap silicon carbide (SiC) switches. This design enables cost-effective grid integration of PV while increasing its dispatchability.

Rapid, Compact C-Si Module Manufacturing

  • Awardee: PPG Industries                                                            
  • Location: Allison Park, PA           
  • Award Start Date: 2013                                                                 
  • Status: Completed
  • FOA Name: Solar Manufacturing Technology (SolarMat)
  • Total Government Share: $2,148,729

The goal of this project is to develop the materials, coating designs, and manufacturing processes necessary to commercialize a new glass article for the cadmium telluride (CdTe) module manufacturing industry. This new glass article combines an improved transparent conductive oxide plus buffer layer, a high transmission glass substrate, and a low-soiling anti-reflective (LSAR) coating into one product offering. The combination of these various technologies into a single product results in performance gains and improvements in module cost. The cost reductions stem from the choice of deposition technology, scaling to high volume manufacturing, and systems integration of multiple coating operations.

Beyond the Solar City: Building on Pittsburgh’s Successes to Put Southwestern Pennsylvania on The Solar Map

  • Awardee: Citizen Penn Future                                                  
  • Location: Harrisburg, PA             
  • Award Start Date: 2012                                                                 
  • Status: Completed
  • FOA Name: Rooftop Solar Challenge
  • Total Government Share: $303,765

The PennFuture team will create a model zoning ordinance using the Solar ABCs as a foundation. It will also expand opportunities for project financing through low-interest solar loans, public-private solar investment fund, group purchasing, and community solar options.

Scattering Solar Thermal Concentrators

  • Awardee: Pennsylvania State University               
  • Location: University Park, PA    
  • Award Start Date: 2012                                                                 
  • Status: Completed
  • FOA Name: SunShot Concentrating Solar Power R&D (CSP SunShot R&D)
  • Total Government Share: $163,405

Pennsylvania State University, under the 2012 SunShot Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) R&D FOA, is designing and testing a novel solar collector system that relies on stationary optics, avoiding the need for mirror movement. The system is capable of achieving optical performance equal to state-of-the-art parabolic trough systems, but at a lower cost.

Extreme Cost Reductions with Multi-Megawatt Centralized Inverter Systems

  • Awardee: ALENCON Acquisitions                                            
  • Location: Plymouth Meeting, PA             
  • Award Start Date: 2011                                                                 
  • Status: Completed
  • FOA Name: Solar Electric Grid Integration- Advanced Concepts (SEGIS-AC)
  • Total Government Share: $2,980,297
Alencon Systems will develop and commercialize a new type of transformational power electronic technology to utility-scale PV systems based on novel, patent-pending ideas. A 99.1% efficient, centralized inverter with a capacity of up to 100 megawatts lies at the heart of the Alencon system. Feeding this single inverter is an advanced harvesting network that utilizes string-wise maximum power point tracking and high DC voltage (2500 VDC) nodes that are easy to install and maintain.

High Efficiency Solar Integrated Roof Membrane Product

  • Awardee: Carlisle Construction Materials                            
  • Location: Carlisle, PA    
  • Award Start Date: 2011                                                                 
  • Status: Completed
  • FOA Name: Extreme Balance of System Hardware Cost Reduction (Bos-X)
  • Total Government Share: $ 1,472,207

This project will develop low cost, high efficiency, flexible, building-integrated PV solar cells on roofing membranes. 

Next-Generation Low-Cost Reflector

  • Awardee: PPG Industries                                                            
  • Location: Allison Park, PA           
  • Award Start Date: 2010                                                                 
  • Status: Completed
  • FOA Name: Baseload Concentrating Solar Power (CSP Baseload)
  • Total Government Share: $749,776

PPG, under the Baseload CSP FOA, is producing a durable first-surface mirror with improved optical performance and geometry design to reduce the unit cost of the reflector subcomponent in a concentrating solar power (CSP) application. PPG Industries is creating an ultra-large, front-surface glass mirror with an inorganic protective hard coat. This approach is working toward reduced operation and maintenance costs and a lower overall unit cost of the reflector assembly. Moving to a larger-sized glass reflector also reduces manufacturing costs because fewer mirrors are needed. The project aims to achieve an estimated leveled cost of electricity (LCOE) of less than $0.08/kWh.

Novel Thermal Storage Technologies for Concentrating Solar Power Generation

  • Awardee: Lehigh University                                                       
  • Location: Bethlehem, PA            
  • Award Start Date: 2008                                                 
  • Status: Completed
  • FOA Name: Advanced Heat Transfer Fluids and Novel Thermal Storage Concepts for Concentrating Solar Power (Thermal Storage)
  • Total Government Share: $1,090,623

Lehigh University is working to establish the technical feasibility of using phase change materials (PCM) at elevated temperatures and to acquire engineering results that will lead to the demonstration of large-scale thermal storage systems.

System Design for CSP Technologies

  • Awardee: Alcoa                                                                              
  • Location: Pittsburgh, PA              
  • Award Start Date: 2007                                                                 
  • Status: Completed
  • FOA Name: Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) Research and Development (CSP R&D)
  • Total Government Share: $2,407,340

Alcoa, under the CSP R&D FOA, is seeking to demonstrate that significant life cycle cost savings and subsequent LCOE reductions are achievable through the design optimization of aluminum-intensive collectors.

Economic On-Grid Solar Energy via Organic Thin Film Technology

  • Awardee: Plextronics                                                                   
  • Location: Pittsburgh, PA              
  • Award Start Date: 2007                                                                 
  • Status: Completed
  • FOA Name: Incubator 1
  • Total Government Share: $3,000,000
PlexTronics is enabling the low-cost, high-volume manufacture of organic photovoltaic (OPV) devices for use as alternative energy sources by developing cells and modules with efficiencies greater than 5.8% and 3.5%, respectively, and lifetimes over 5,000 hours.

High Performance Reflector Panels for CSP Assemblies

  • Awardee: PPG Industries                                                            
  • Location: Allison Park, PA           
  • Award Start Date: 2007                                                                 
  • Status: Completed
  • FOA Name: Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) Research and Development (CSP R&D)
  • Total Government Share: $2,185,465         

PPG, under the CSP R&D FOA, is aiming to develop and commercialize large-area second-surface glass mirrors that are superior in value, cost, and performance, to existing mirrors on the market today.

Solar in Your Community Challenge

The Solar in Your Community Challenge is a $5 million prize competition funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative that aims to expand solar electricity access to low and moderate income (LMI) households; state, local, and tribal governments; and nonprofit organizations. 

The Challenge is supporting dozens of teams across the country with cash prizes and technical assistance to demonstrate innovative, scalable business and financial models that can open new solar markets that benefit these underserved communities.  

Teams are competing for up to $1 million in final prizes for the most innovative and scalable models. To compete, teams must design and deploy scalable community-based solar projects or programs, up to 5 megawatts in 18 months that serve at least 20% LMI households or 60% non-profits.

Solar-Powered Community-Driven 

  • Location:  Pittsburgh, PA                              
  • 2018 Planned kWh Development: 500
  • Challenge Track: Low and Moderate Income, Nonprofit           

The Gladstone School Campus in Hazelwood is currently being redeveloped to include 40 low-income housing units, 20 market rate units, a day care and wellness center and Hazelwood’s community-empowerment organization. As part of the larger redevelopment project, the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group aims to install solar panels to power housing units for Low-Income (LI) households. Solar panels will be integrated into the building design to power the main building on the Gladstone School Campus, which is being renovated to LEED Platinum-certification standards.

Centennial Parkside Community

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA                           
  • 2018 Planned kWh Development: 1,250
  • Challenge Track: Low and Moderate Income, Nonprofit

The CPCDC proposes to become the owner and operator of solar energy facilities that will produce several outcomes in support of CPCDC’s mission. As an earned revenue source, the income generated from selling the solar energy will provide the CDC with a predictable and sustainable resource to support the community, create jobs, and reduce residents’ energy bills.

Increased Economic Opportunities

  • Location: Meadville, PA                                                
  • 2018 Planned kWh Development: 25
  • Challenge Track: Low and Moderate Income                             

Increased Economic Opportunities is a startup that funds small renewable energy system installations by raising funds via crowdsourcing. The focus of this small non-profit is to install renewable energy systems on homes, surrounding properties, empty lots maintained by the city, and local community buildings. After the installation, proceeds from electricity production are used for systems maintenance and additional system installations at other properties.

Solarize Philly

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA                                           
  • 2018 Planned kWh Development: 2,500
  • Challenge Track: Low and Moderate Income

Solarize Philly is a citywide program to make solar possible for all Philadelphians. Led by the Philadelphia Energy Authority, it will add 2.5 MW of PV on 500 Philadelphia homes and buildings in 18 months by reducing customer acquisition costs, reducing system costs through bulk purchasing, increasing consumer confidence, simplifying solar permitting and interconnection, and subsidizing solar for low and moderate-income households. Solarize Philly will create 73 jobs, expand solar installer training, clean the grid, and reduce energy costs for residents. It will kickstart progress on City Council’s goal of 20,000 solar roofs by 2025, and drive solar market growth in our region. 

Northwest Philly Solar Co-op

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA                                           
  • 2018 Planned kWh Development: 151
  • Challenge Track: Low and Moderate Income

The mission of the Northwest Philly Solar Cooperative is to educate people in the surrounding community about rooftop solar, negotiate bulk buy discounts from solar contractors, and advocate for better policies on clean energy. The Co-op has proposed a Solar Neighborhood Investment Project (SNIP) which would generate approximately 151 kWh in north Philadelphia. Specific details regarding this project are not yet known.

Solar for Our Neighborhoods

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA                                           
  • 2018 Planned kWh Development: 10,000
  • Challenge Track: Low and Moderate Income       

Solar for Our Neighborhoods plans to build 10 MW of solar on under-utilized urban land with financial benefits of these projects shared with low-income residents in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Qualifying low-income customers will benefit from these solar projects by receiving bill credits for reducing their home energy usage, lowering costs for all customers. Program partners include the regional utility, government and community organizations, solar industry professionals, financial institutions and low-income energy efficiency service providers.