Empowering solar power is goal of ‘SunShot’ awardees

sunlight over a winding river

Two Colorado State University research groups working to improve the design, efficiency and cost of solar-powered technologies have received support through the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative.

The CSU researchers were among 48 projects that received a total of $46.2 million in federal funding for “innovative, early-stage solar power technologies.” The grants were announced earlier this month.

CSU SunShot awardees

Kurt Barth, associate director of CSU’s Next Generation Photovoltaic Center, received $1.1 million (with expected awardee cost share of $125,000) for a project titled “Advanced Module Architecture for Reduced Costs, High Durability and Significantly Improved Manufacturability.”

Barth’s project will investigate new materials and methods for enhanced durability and reliability of thin-film photovoltaic devices. One of the goals is refining a new manufacturing process for solar modules that’s faster and cheaper than conventional techniques. For the project, the CSU center is partnering with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the PV Manufacturing Corp. at the State University of New York.

The Next-Generation PV Center is a National Science Foundation-supported Industry/University Cooperative Research Center at CSU. Commercial members include leaders from the energy sector and across the solar technology chain.

Jason Kephart, a research scientist in the lab of Professor W.S. Sampath in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, has received just over $162,000 for a project titled “High Lifetime and Mobility Cadmium Telluride Alloys by Co-sublimation,” with an awardee cost-share of $18,000. Kephart will lead the investigation of a cadmium selenium telluride material as the basis for a low-cost photovoltaic technology.

The team will use custom hardware to create and test a new way to incorporate selenium with greater efficiency. Their hope is the discovery of optimal composition and thus, higher solar conversion efficiency.