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Four California Startups Snag Federal Funds

by Sara Stroud
Sustainable Industries, February 4, 2011

Four California startups are among those that will receive cash grants from a new federal program to promote a dramatic drop in the cost of solar energy.

The funding is part of the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative, which aims to cut the cost of solar photovoltaic power by 75 percent by the end of the decade, or to about $1 per watt. The agency rolled out details of the program on Friday, along with news of nine projects that will receive a total of $27 million.

"These efforts will boost our economic competitiveness, rebuild our manufacturing industry and help reach the President's goal of doubling our clean energy in the next 25 years," Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement.

Five of the projects are working to develop photovoltaic manufacturing supply chains in the U.S., and reduce production costs. The remaining four are receiving a total of $7 million through the agency's Photovoltaic Solar Incubator Program, which aims to speed up the timeline for commercializing promising new technologies. The recipients:

Crystal Solar is slated to get $4 million over the next 18 months. The other three companies will get $1 million each over the next year. While that may not sound like a lot in comparison to what some of the companies have raised from venture capitalists - Stion closed a $70 million round last year - the companies also get to collaborate with DOE and national labs to develop and test their products.

"One million dollars for R&D is pretty substantial," Frank Yang, Stion's director of business development, told Sustainable Industries. "The award is great for us, not just from a funding standpoint but for collaboration."

Beyond pushing new technologies and manufacturing processes, the Energy Department is also pursuing a decidedly more low-tech route to cutting the cost of solar through the SunShot initiative: reducing permitting and installation costs. The agency plans to digitize and speed-up local permitting processes and create performance standards for the lifetime of solar installations.

"Eliminating solar soft costs and delays is mission critical for the SunShot to reach escape velocity," Doug Payne, executive director of the trade group SolarTech, said in a statement. "Variable costs related to permitting, inspection, and interconnection are killing our industry's ability to achieve speed and scale."

Sara Stroud
Four California Startups Snag Federal Funds
Sustainable Industries, February 4, 2011

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